What’s the Difference Between Locust and Grasshopper?
Locusts are all over the news again. Or are they grasshoppers? You’ve probably heard about locust and grasshopper invasions in different parts of the world. Often, these insects form millions-strong swarms that cause significant devastation wherever they land. You may struggle to differentiate these two insects because they are strikingly familiar. Here’s a breakdown of their essential characteristics to help you differentiate them.
Grasshoppers are insects that primarily eat plants. These insects can measure anywhere between 1 to 7 centimeters when fully-grown. Typically, female grasshoppers are larger than males. There are over 10,000 grasshopper species worldwide, and the insects can be found everywhere, except in the cold polar regions.
Grasshoppers have two pairs of wings. One is pliable and wide, while the other is resilient and narrow. Long hind legs allow grasshoppers to jump up to 20 times their body length. Some grasshoppers have short antennae. Generally, the length of a grasshopper’s antennae classifies it as either being short-horned or long-horned.
Most grasshopper species are colored to blend with their environment. However, most species are brown, gray, or green. Males tend to have brighter colors on their wings to entice females. Brightly-colored grasshoppers often consume exotic plants, and store toxins in their bodies. The bright color cautions predators that they’re dangerous.
Habitat and Diet
Grasshoppers primarily live in meadows or fields. Nonetheless, they can thrive anywhere provided that there’s sufficient food. The insects are ravenous eaters and can consume up to 16 times their weight. They prefer eating grasses, leaves, and cereal crops such as wheat, barley, rice, oats, and rye.
What Predators Prey on Grasshoppers?
Flies pose the greatest threat to grasshoppers. Typically, they lay their eggs close to the grasshoppers’ eggs. After hatching, they eat the grasshoppers’ eggs. Some flies also lay eggs on grasshoppers’ bodies, and after that, the larvae will consume the grasshoppers. Snakes, birds, beetles, spiders, and mice are the other common grasshopper predators.
Locusts (Destructive Pests)
Locusts are grasshoppers that develop gregarious characteristics. Often, they thrive in environmental conditions that allow them to form into organized groups. These conditions include thick vegetation growth after droughts. In such conditions, locusts reproduce at a fast rate and move in large swarms while making stops at any patch of greenery that they come across. Since they cover long distances in a short time, locusts often cause extensive damage to crops.
Locusts have a similar appearance to grasshoppers. The two insects also share the same morphological structure. Nonetheless, as grasshoppers morph into locusts, their wing structure begins to change. Locusts fly over longer distances compared to grasshoppers and thus need to have longer and stronger wings. They also have smaller bodies compared to grasshoppers. Locusts always swarm, whereas most grasshopper species rarely or never swarm.
These insects typically come in dark-yellow, brown, or green, but their color or color pattern can change when they enter their migratory or swarming phase. Adult locusts are distinguished from females by the shape of abdomens. In male locusts, the tip of the abdomen is rounded because of the sub-genital plate that conceals reproductive organs. In females, the tip of the abdomen looks pointed due to the lower and upper jaws of the ovipositor.
Desert locusts lay eggs in pods 10-15 centimeters below the ground, primarily in sandy soils. A solitary female can lay up to 180 eggs in a pod, while a gregarious female lays less than 80 eggs. Female locusts lay eggs at least three times during their lifetime, usually at intervals of 6 to 11 days. A one square meter pod can hold up to 1,000 eggs.
Just like grasshoppers, locusts are herbivores. Therefore, they cause severe crop damage when they invade a field of crop. Locusts tend to move in large groups to fly over long distances during their gregarious phase. Insect physiologists established that serotonin, a brain chemical, transforms solitary locusts into swarming insects.
What Predators Prey on Locusts?
Locusts have numerous natural predators, including reptiles, birds, and wasps. Nonetheless, these predators are mostly non-specific feeders. Therefore, they rarely have an impact on locust numbers during outbreaks. They cannot be used to control established locust swarms.
Locusts and grasshoppers may share similar physical characteristics, but they are similar in so many ways. A locust is a grasshopper that has superior social characteristics. Therefore, a grasshopper only needs the right environmental conditions to transform into a locust. To differentiate between the two insects, you should keep these key points in mind:
- A locust is a short-horned type of grasshopper. However, a grasshopper isn’t a type of locust.
- Both insects are members of the order Orthoptera. However, grasshoppers belong to the Caelifera suborder while locusts belong to the Acrididae suborder.
- Locusts can exist in two behavioral states, which are gregarious and migratory, whereas grasshoppers do not.
- Grasshoppers belong to 28 distinct families, while locusts only belong to 1 family.
Locusts and grasshoppers cause significant damage to vegetation. You need more than their natural predators to control them. To prevent locust and grasshopper invasions, do not hesitate to contact us. We offer eco-friendly solutions for all your pest control needs.