Red Locust, Nomadacris septemfasciata

The red locust (Nomadacris septemfasciata) is a species of grasshopper that is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, where it prefers to swarm moist areas like seasonal floodplains. It can be found in areas with grain, its main food source, and areas with some tree cover. Adults are typically brownish-tan in color and can reach an average body length between 2.4 and 3.3 inches depending upon the sex, with females growing larger. Young individuals of this species can vary in color depending upon which stage of life they are in and whether they reside in groups, with social individuals holding reddish brown and yellow markings and solitary individuals holding greenish brown coloring.

The red locust is inactive when its environment holds abundant food and shelter and population densities are typically stable.

Population densities will increase in years with drier conditions, causing individuals to change their inactive behaviors and become gregarious, swarming groups. During the day, these groups fly together in search of food, using thermal updrafts to fly as far as 18.6 miles in one day. Solitary individuals do not fly during the day, preferring the cool, lower temperatures of the nighttime hours. Individuals flying in groups have shorter lifespans and larger young than those residing alone.

There have been many outbreaks of the red locust, with the most recent lasting between the years of 1930 and 1944, when most of southern Africa was affected. Past efforts to control the species include ecological changes, but these did not prove to be as effective as the chemicals that are now being used to control the species. One of these chemical agents is a biologically based agent that is derived from Metarhizium acridum and it has proven to be effective on adults and larvae.

Image Caption: Adult Red Locust (Nomadacris septemfasciata) on wild sorghum in the Wembere Plains in Central Tanzania in February 2003. Credit: Christiaan Kooyman/Wikipedia