Never underestimate insects

Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia are being hit hard by massive clouds of locusts — would you believe a mass of insects 37 x 25 miles in area sweeping across East Africa? And that’s only one of multiple swarms.

Also troubling — this is a side-effect of climate change.

The swarms are reaching such an unusual size now because of cyclones that rained on the deserts of Oman last year, the FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer Keith Cressman tells Reuters’ Nita Bhalla.

“We know that cyclones are the originators of swarms – and in the past 10 years, there’s been an increase in the frequency of cyclones in the Indian Ocean,” Cressman tells Reuters. Eight cyclones occurred in 2019.

“Normally there’s none, or maybe one. So this is very unusual,” Cressman says. “It’s difficult to attribute to climate change directly, but if this trend of increased frequency of cyclones in Indian Ocean continues, then certainly that’s going to translate to an increase in locust swarms in the Horn of Africa.”

I used to raise Schistocerca, and they are amazingly, scarily prolific when given good conditions, which is what these cyclones are providing.

They’re going to need a lot of spiders — big spiders. Locusts are impressively large and well-armored.


  1. raven says

    The other place of origination of the next group of locusts to swarm is right across the Red Sea.
    That Somalia.

    Next East Africa locust swarms airborne in 3 to 4 weeks, UN warns.

    Baby desert locusts in Somalia will become East Africa’s next plague wave, UN agronomy experts have warned. Climate change-driven rain has triggered “unprecedented” breeding, says UN chief Antonio Guterres.19 hours ago › next-east-africa-locust-swarms-airborne-in-3-to-4-weeks…

    It’s possible to stop these swarms by spraying insecticide while they are just getting started.
    Because Somalia is a war zone, that isn’t likely to happen.

  2. says

    Yes! Except that one way of dealing with the problem is spraying them with insecticide from the air.

    But otherwise, lots of protein in a locust. Too bad there was more nutrition in the food they ate.

  3. unclefrogy says

    that they eat more food then they are worth is a given but harvesting them would go toward recouping some of the lose and over harvesting would put some damper on the scope of the swarms it would be less dangerous than aerial spraying huge tracts of land with powerful none-selective insecticides. If as it seems that the conditions for swarms is becoming a more regular seasonal event at least the cost of control would not be a total lose. I would think that a large amount of “organic animal feed additive” would fetch a good price hopefully large enough to cover the cost.
    uncle frogy

  4. marcoli says

    I raised a batch many years ago. Yes, they grew fast, ate a lot, and if given a chance to fly they would fly ’round and ’round the lab. Not like other grasshoppers.

  5. jrkrideau says

    Ah, dinner.
    Globally, the most commonly consumed insects are beetles (Coleoptera) (31 percent), caterpillars (Lepidoptera) (18 percent) and bees, wasps and ants (Hymenoptera) (14 percent). Following these are grasshoppers, locusts and crickets (Orthoptera) (13 percent), cicadas, leafhoppers, planthoppers, scale insects and true bugs (Hemiptera) (10 percent), termites (Isoptera) (3 percent), dragonflies (Odonata) (3 percent), flies (Diptera) (2 percent) and other orders (5 percent)
    FAO : Eatable insects.

    We just need a few cooking shows to encourage locust dishes.

  6. jrkrideau says

    @ 5 PZ
    But otherwise, lots of protein in a locust. Too bad there was more nutrition in the food they ate.
    We can say the same about cows. Wait a minute, Wiki says Locusts yield about five times more edible protein per unit of fodder than cattle, and produce lower levels of greenhouse gases in the process.[

    And who would not prefer some crispy fried locusts instead of a boring old hamburg?

  7. unclefrogy says

    maybe in Asia or Africa or even south america but the not the U.S. hell it is hard to find rabbit or organ meat in supper markets these days. insects only in pet food in a pet shop.
    uncle frogy

  8. John Morales says


    insects only in pet food in a pet shop

    You sure there are no cockroaches around where you live? Or other bugs?

    (Gathering from the wild, as our early progenitors would have done! Grubs!)

    Anyway, locust swarms. I seen’em.

    Still, Oz is a developed economy, so it manages with due extensive use of pesticides mostly at the right time and in the right place. Less-developed economies will feel the impact that much more, even with external aid.

  9. jack16 says

    Coffee beans recovered from carnivore poop (one carnivore to date) have been used to make an exotic brew.
    Potential income for anyone who can feed coffee beans to their animals and perform the separation. The beans are not digested but supposedly acquire a flavor during passage through the bowel.
    . . . Bull coffee? Cow coffee? Tiger coffee? . . .
    Subject to reasonable taste testing, of course, the pioneer exists.

  10. unclefrogy says

    insects for sale as feed are only ever going to be in pet shops in the U.S.
    there is a problem with “june bug” larva however they are rather large and fat and like manure rich soil (from cats and dogs usually) and the skunks and raccoons like them very much and dig up lawns and beds and the plants growing in them to get at them, almost as thoroughly as a roto-tiller
    a real f’n mess
    I suspect the grubs are a secondary host for intestinal parasites as well. so no I will pass on them
    uncle frogy

  11. jack16 says

    How expensive is the locust harvest? I’d guess locust flour would be a storable consumable like any other flour. I’ve read that there are people who look forward to the swarms.


  12. DanDare says

    There is a problem with the cautious “can’t directly attribute to climate change”.
    Guys like PM Scott Morrisson translate thar to “there is no connection between climate change and these fires[/floods/locusts]”.