What is the Difference Between Grasshoppers and Locusts?

Green grasshoppers and brown locusts are close relatives of one another.

Grasshoppers and locusts are closely related insects both in the Acrididae family. Locusts are in fact, grasshoppers which develop gregarious behaviors under optimum environmental conditions which involve the presence of large populations of grasshoppers. Locusts are not themselves a species. The two insects are primarily herbivores feeding on any green matter they come across and are sometimes agricultural pests when they land in farms. Grasshoppers and locusts have had interactions with human beings since early times and have been mentioned both in the Quran and in the Bible. The two are often used as a delicacy across many communities of the world providing a source of protein.

What Are Grasshoppers?

Grasshoppers are ground dwelling insects which go through a phase of incomplete metamorphosis before developing into the adult stage. As grasshoppers mostly occupy the ground, they have very powerful hind legs which are adapted for escape in case they are threatened. Grasshoppers are closely similar to locusts though grasshoppers can only fly for shorter distances. Grasshoppers mostly exist within a solitary phase with little to no threat to crops. Within the solitary phase, grasshoppers are disorganized, each leading its way of life. However, some grasshopper species develop gregarious behavior under suitable conditions becoming more like locusts.

What Are Locusts?

Locusts are grasshoppers which develop gregarious characteristics in suitable environmental conditions forming an organized group. Such conditions are particularly driven by a period of dense vegetative growth after drought. Drought drives locusts to crowd in small areas where there is vegetation. Locusts then abandon their solitary phase as grasshoppers and reproduce at dramatically high rates forming bands of nymphs and swarms as adults. The transition from the solitary phase is triggered by the secretion of hormone serotonin which has been linked to boosting moods in humans. In their swarms, locusts move in a single direction making stopovers on any green area they notice. This movement causes extensive damage to crops. Locusts are known to cover long distances in short time periods leaving behind a trail of damage.

A swarm of locusts.

Structural Differences Between Locusts And Grasshoppers

Though similar in appearance, grasshoppers differ structurally from the locust. Both species have similar morphological structures whose major difference occurs when locust become gregarious. In grasshoppers, the front wings are thin and tough while the outer wings are wide and flexible. In locusts, the wings become longer and stronger to allow for long distance flights. The body of locusts are smaller than that of grasshoppers. In their solitary states, female locusts are larger than their male counterparts, although their sizes do decrease in the swarming phase.

Behavioral Differences Between Locusts And Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are primarily solitary creatures throughout their lives, coming together only for reproduction. Though locusts may be found in isolation, they mostly occur in groups in which they forage, bask and roost. Grasshoppers are relatively sedentary species maintaining the same habitat for long periods of time. Grasshoppers only move when threatened and during feeding. Locusts, however, are migratory species often shifting from one area to the next in search of food. Even in their solitary states, locusts are still known to fly over long distances.

Human Interactions With Locusts And Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers and locusts are popular species among humans especially as a source of food. However, they are infamous for mass destruction of crops – a problem that has plagued farmers for centuries. Swarms of locusts are often a bad omen for farmers and have resulted in several droughts in areas where they land. As a countermeasure, scientists have developed the use of pesticides as well as biological control methods to manage the species.

More in Environment