Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Entomology
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: April 9, 2003
Publication Date: April 30, 2004
Citation: Showler, A.T. 2004. Desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria Forskal (Orthoptera: Acrididae) plagues. In: Capinera, J.L., editor. Encyclopedia of Entomology Volume 1. 1st edition. Hingham, MA: Kluwer Academic Publishers. p. 23-27. Interpretive Summary: The desert locust is well known in much of Africa and Asia for its potential to cause complete crop losses at the local level within hours of the arrival of swarms. Usually, however, the desert locust is a solitary insect that occurs at low and economically unimportant population levels. Particulars of desert locust plagues, breeding, and crop losses are described, and control strategies are discussed.
Technical Abstract: The desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria Forskal (Orthoptera: Acrididae) has been recognized as a serious pest of African and western Asian agriculture during plagues to the extent that it has been referred to in the Bible and the Koran. Desert locusts are usually solitary insects (during plague recessions that can last for decades) that inhabit North Africa, the African Sahel, the Arabian Peninsula, and western Asia to the Pakistan-India border area. Periods of rainfall following droughts can result in conditions that are favorable to desert locust breeding, particularly in certain areas scattered throughout the recession distribution. In some instances, sudden desert locust breeding can cause sufficient population pressure to induce a transformation from the solitary phase to the gregarious phase when nymphal bands and adult swarms form and cause "outbreaks" or "plagues." During plagues, the distribution of desert tlocusts can expand to include parts of sub-Sahelian Africa, western Asia t Bangladesh, and southern Europe. Swarms of locusts can cause 100% crop loss at the local level within hours. Aspects of desert locust outbreaks, plagues, breeding, and crop losses are described, and control strategies are discussed.