The Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is an insect, similar to a grasshopper.
The Desert Locust is green, grey or brown to match the colour of the foliage (plants) around them. During the swarming phase, it becomes yellow with dark markings. When they are grey, their underbelly and face are pink. When they are older, their underbelly is yellow. It has long antennae. It has long wings and long legs.
The adult measures 6-9 centimetres (2-3.5 inches).
The Desert Locust has two phases: the solitary phase (in areas where there is plenty of food) and the gregarious phase (during drought). This is called polyphenism. Solitary locusts move around on their own, but during the gregarious phase the locusts swarm together.
The swarms fly rapidly over great distances, up to 100-200 kilometres per night (62-124 miles per night). They swarm in periods of drought when there is competition for food. The periods when they are not swarming are called recessions.
The Desert Locust is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, in the northern areas, from Mauritania across to the Arabian Peninsula and into northwest India. However, when swarming for food, they can travel as far north as Spain and Russia, and as far south as Nigeria and Kenya.
It prefers deserts and scrublands. It does not like mountain regions, and it does not like rainforests. When locusts swarm, they do not travel across mountains or rainforests, so these form natural barriers.
When the Desert Locusts swarm, they eat all plants in their range, which devastates the land, especially food crops.
The life cycle of the Desert Locust consists of three stages: the egg, the nymph (the hopper), and the adult locust (winged adult).
Female locusts lay an eggpod in the soil. The eggpod is about 4 centimetres (2 inches) long. An eggpod contains about 100 eggs. The eggpod remains in the soil for about 14 days.
The newly hatched nymph feed on plants. As it grows, it moults (sheds its outer covering, called an exoskeleton). It takes about 5 moults (the stages between each moult is called an instar) before becoming an adult locust.
The Desert Locust can live between 3-6 months.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM