Locusts

Locusts are small insects.

They have 6 legs and they have wings.

They can be pests.

They eat plants.


A locust (say low-cust) is a type of insect related to the grasshopper and cricket, but a locust can change how it looks and behaves.  There are different kinds and sizes of locust found in different countries.

Insects have bodies that are in three sections: a head, a thorax and an abdomen. Their skeleton is on the outside, which is called exoskeleton. They have six legs, and the two back ones are big, which helps them hop. They have two pairs of wings. They have compound eyes to let them look in many directions at once. At the end of a female's abdomen she has a tiny tube called an ovipositor (say of-ee-poz-uh-tuh) , used when she lays eggs. Insects have tiny breathing holes on the thorax, called spiracles.

After mating with a male locust, a female locust lays eggs in the soil, buried several centimetres below the surface. Each female lays her eggs in batches of up to 60, called pods. The females often crowd together and lay large numbers of eggs.  The places where pods of eggs are laid are called egg beds. If there is warmth and dampness, the eggs hatch in about 2 weeks. If conditions are not right, the eggs can ‘sleep’ until it is warm and damp, then develop.

After hatching, a locust is called a nymph or hopper, and goes through 5 stages as it grows. At the end of each stage, the nymph moults, or sheds its skin, as it grows bigger.  The wings develop more at each stage until after about 8 weeks the nymph becomes an adult that can fly.

When food is plentiful,  locusts live on their own, just like grasshoppers, and they are green or brown. But when there is lots of food, their numbers increase. That means when the weather changes and plants die down, the locusts are crowded together. They go through changes: their colours get brighter and their eyes bigger. Their back legs are now bigger so they can sit tall and look around. Their wings are longer so they can fly huge distances.

They take off in huge groups , looking for food. A huge group of locusts is called a swarm, and a swarm can be millions and millions of locusts.  Swarms fly great distances, and the locusts eat the plants in their path. After they finally run out of food, the locusts separate and change again.

Locust swarms occur in many countries. When locusts swarm, it is terrible news for farmers. The locust swarms will leave farms with nothing left growing, all crops gone, and farmers with no income. A locust swarm is a disaster. A government tries to spray the nymphs before they can fly.

Photographs © [2007] Jupiterimages Corporation


Go here to find out more about locust life cycle: http://www.animalcorner.co.uk/insects/grasshoppers/grasshopper_locusts.html


If you use any of this in your own work, acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Locusts [Online] www.kidcyber.com.au (2010)

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updated October 2010 ©kidcyber