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The Difference Between a Grasshopper and a Locust

Grasshoppers and locusts are closely related insects that belong to the Acrididae family. Sometimes this family is simply called grasshoppers and the locust is also a grasshopper. Locusts can develop gregarious behaviors under optimum environmental conditions which involve the presence of large populations of these insects.

5-Minute Crafts would like to tell you about how grasshoppers are different from locusts.

Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are sometimes referred to as the entire suborder of short-horned orthopteran insects (Caelifera). This includes grasshoppers, grasshopper-like insects, and the families of ground-hoppers (Tetrigidae) and pygmy mole crickets (Tridactyloidea). The suborder Caelifera includes some 2,400 valid genera and about 12,000 known species, about 10,000 of which are members of the locust family (Acrididae). All known locust species belong to it.

Grasshoppers are ground-dwelling insects that go through a phase of incomplete metamorphosis before developing into the adult stage. Since grasshoppers mostly live on the ground, they have very powerful hind legs, adapted for escaping in case of danger.

Most grasshoppers feed on plants, but some are omnivores. As a rule, they prefer grasses and many cereals grown as crops. At high population densities and under certain environmental conditions, some species of grasshoppers can change behavior and form swarms. Then they become serious pests of cereals, vegetables, and pastures, especially when they swarm in the millions as locusts and destroy crops over large areas.

The locust is the most common representative of grasshoppers. Other species of these insects are distinguished by thin and tough front wings, and wide and flexible outer wings. These grasshoppers fly for short distances and move only when threatened and during feeding. They mostly live alone and come together only for reproduction. They are disorganized. Each insect leads its own life and practically doesn’t present any threat to crops when it’s alone.

Locusts

Locusts are grasshoppers that, in suitable environmental conditions, develop gregarious traits and form organized groups. These conditions may occur due to intense vegetative growth after a period of drought. It makes locusts crowd in small areas where there is vegetation. Thus, locusts abandon their solitary phase of grasshoppers and begin to multiply at an incredibly high rate, first forming groups of nymphs, and then full-fledged swarms of adults.

The body of a locust is smaller than that of a grasshopper, but the wings become longer and stronger, which allows them to fly over long distances. This transition from the solitary phase to building a swarm is triggered by the secretion of the hormone serotonin which is associated with boosting moods in humans.

After forming huge swarms, locusts move in one direction, making stopovers on any green area they see. This movement causes significant damage to crops. Locusts are known to travel long distances in short periods, leaving behind a trail of damage.

Preview photo credit Ed van duijn / Unsplash
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