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Friday, 12 February 2016

Locust

Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers. Such swarms are usually made of a huge number of locusts. They do a lot of damage to the places where they pass, by eating the crops.

It is estimated that the largest swarms have covered hundreds of miles and consisted of many billions of locusts. In ancient times the trail of destruction led by clouds of locusts resulted in armies being set against them and priests putting them on trial.

When still a monk, Pope Gregory the Great received permission to lead a mission to England. The party had not gone far when Gregory was halted by a sign. A locust dropped onto the Bible he was reading. "Locusta", he exclaimed. ("Locastat" means remain in your place.) He returned to Rome and soon after being elected Pope he was able to send Augustine of Canterbury instead.


Already struggling after two years of drought, settlers in the west of America during the 1870s were hit by a huge locust swarm, 1,800 miles long and over 110 miles wide that reaped massive destruction. The insect horde burnt tons of vegetation to fuel its migration causing $200 million in crop damage in Colorado, Nebraska, and several other states. And when the locusts landed on lakes and died in their millions, they left stinking ramparts, six feet high and two miles long across the shores, turning the water putrid and undrinkable.

Prayers were said for deliverance and without warning the locusts disappeared never to return. The insects' extinction has been a source of puzzlement. Recent research suggests that during the large influx of settlers their breeding grounds in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains came to be disturbed. The plowing and irrigation by the settlers of the sandy river beds accidentally destroyed the underground eggs and today North America is the only populated continent without a major locust.

A desert locust swarm can be 460 square miles in size and can consume 423 million pounds of plants in a single day.

Millions of swarming Australian plague locusts on the move. By CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35486123

Locust swarms move so fast because each locust is trying to eat the one in front and avoid being eaten by the one behind.

The cicada, whose Latin name is Cicada Septemdecim (17 letters), is a locust that takes 17 years to mature. After the cicada eggs hatch, the resulting nymph burrows in the ground for 17 years.

Cicadas can get as loud as a rock concert and can even damage human hearing.

The locust is the only insect considered kosher in Judaism.

Sources Faber Book of Anecdotes, Daily Mail

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