18 August 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Riotous Assembly of Locusts

I was rereading some notes I’d made on locusts the other day and was immediately transported to the scenes of the recent London riots.

Consider this: locusts are not born locusts. They are born grasshoppers. Gentle creatures, mostly timid and solitary. But put them in an overcrowded situation and they become locusts. Their colours turn garish, and they turn into overeating, rampaging hooligans.

They come together in ever larger numbers. A few groups merge, then a few thousand more, then eventually a swarm so large they blacken the skies and make farmers panic.

They are fearless. They strip the land, devouring every living green thing.

It sounds uncannily familiar. I saw it all the other day on Sky TV.

But what of the aftermath? Well, a locust plague sounds scary and is so for a while. On the other hand, predators like storks, small raptors and jackals love these times of plenty and (unless pesticides are sprayed - which happens less and less these days) they have a fine old time wolfing down all that protein.

And apparently a locust swarm can leave up to 2 millions of tonnes of locust dung behind - great fertiliser.

So a frightening locust swarm can have a long-term beneficial effect.

I wonder if anyone can say the same of rioters?

Category: Wildlife

comments powered by Disqus