Published on February 19, 2013 by Amy
Locusts are part of a large group of insects commonly called grasshoppers which have big hind legs for jumping. Locusts belong to the family called Acrididae. Locusts differ from grasshoppers in that they have the ability to change their behaviour and habits and can migrate over large distances.
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Grasshopper and locust are the same type of insect. However, a locust is a changed grasshopper in that it has different behaviors and coloration. What triggers these changes is not completely understood, but recent evidence suggests that the individuals of a group influence each other. In some locales, locust develop periodically while in others, just the normal grasshopper appears. Both have wings. However, the developing grasshopper takes several months to become an adult. They hatch as very small grasshoppers and grow over the summer months. This is “incomplete metamorphosis”, unlike the metamorphosis of butterflys, moths, etc.
Adult locusts have wings, and they fly with a buzzing sound. The wings are actually quite pretty in flight, showing flashes of bright colors. This is surprising for an otherwise olive-drab insect. The larvae lok a lot like the adults, but they do not have wings. They can hop just like the adults, however.
Acrididae are small to large insects, varying from short and stout to long and slender. They are usually gray, brownish or green in colour, some have brightly coloured hind wings. The front and hind wings are fully developed or totally lacking. The ovipositor is short.
Comments: Acrididae are plant feeders, and they are often very destructive to vegetation. This family includes most of the grasshoppers that are common in meadows and along roadsides from mid-summer to fall and also the majority of economically important grasshoppers and all true locusts. Males sing during the day by rubbing the inner surface of the hind femur against the lower edge of the front wing. Acrididae detect sounds using a membrane called the tympanum on each side of the first abdominal segment.
Here are a few local recipes from locust-affected countries.
Tinjiya (Tswana recipe): remove the wings and hindlegs of the locusts, and boil in a little water until soft. Add salt, if desired, and a little fat and fry until brown. Serve with cooked, dried mealies (corn).
Sikonyane (Swazi recipe): prepare embers and roast the whole locust on the embers. Remove head, wings, and legs, in other words, only the breast part is eaten. The South Sotho people use locusts especially as food for travellers. The heads and last joint of the hindlegs are broken off and the rest laid on the coals to roast. The roasted locusts are ground on a grinding stone to a fine powder. This powder can be kept for long periods of time and is taken along on a journey. Dried locusts are also prepared for the winter months. The legs, when dried, are especially relished for their pleasant taste.
Cambodia: take several dozen locust adults, preferably females, slit the abdomen lengthwise and stuff a peanut inside. Then lightly grill the locusts in a wok or hot frying pan, adding a little oil and salt to taste. Be careful not to overcook or burn them.
Barbecue (grilled): prepare the embers or charcoal. Place about one dozen locusts on a skewer, stabbing each through the centre of the abdomen. If you only want to eat the abdomen, then you may want to take off the legs or wings either before or after cooking. Several skewers of locusts may be required for each person. Place the skewers above the hot embers and grill while turning continuously to avoid burning the locusts until they become golden brown.