Gary Grasshopper or Luke the Locust?
May I introduce you to Gary Grasshopper. This elegant individual belongs to the Acrididae, and there are 356 different species. Some of them are winged and others wingless, but all feed on grass and leaves and are active during the day.
Gary’s antennae have less than thirty segments and are thus relatively short; he belongs to the short-horned grasshoppers, which tend to live solitary lives.
A very close relative of Gary’s is Luke Locust: apparently specific types of short-horned grasshoppers can undergo a personality change and turn into locusts under certain environmental conditions. When population density gets too high and food sources have become scarce, these grasshoppers can experience an increased release of Serotonin in their brain, which causes them to change colour, shape and behaviour. In other words, Gary turns into Luke; grasshopper becomes locust. Suddenly they eat much more, breed more abundantly and instead of each going their separate way, they fall into line and start moving as one.
Locusts are gregarious and often millions of the same species gather together to form threatening, ravenous, often destructive swarms, feared since antiquity. Apparently, a single locust swarm can consist of up to 80 Million individuals, and each one of those can eat its own body weight in plant matter each and every day. They can cover vast distances, cross oceans and deserts, and one particular swarm has been able to reach Great Britain from Northwest Africa in 1954, while another flew from West Africa to the Caribbean. But locusts don’t only eat, they are also eaten; in many cultures they have served as food throughout history and are valued as a protein-rich snack.
After our encounter gorgeous Gary went on wandering his own solitary path. Could he one day turn into Luke Locust?