Grasshoppers and locusts share many similarities, though they differ in terms of size, behavior and change of body color.
Grasshoppers are found all over the world where there is plenty of grass or certain species of plants. They are, therefore, herbivores animals signifying their diet consists of weeds, grasses, flowers, shrubs and other species of plants. Nevertheless, there are certain grasshoppers which feed on other insects and dead animals.
Grasshoppers are divided into two groups:
a) Short-horned grasshoppers
b) Long-horned grasshoppers
The short-longed grasshoppers have short antennae, while the long-horned grasshoppers have long antennae.
As is the case with other insects, a grasshopper’s body is divided into three parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. An adult grasshopper has an outer or external skeleton (hard shell) called an exoskeleton which covers the body. Unlike mammals or reptiles, grasshoppers and other insects do not have skeletons inside their bodies.
A grasshopper has six legs with the back legs being long and powerful. The back legs enable a grasshopper to jump great distances. The other front legs aid a grasshopper to walk and catch a prey. According to A-Z-animals.com, an antenna of a grasshopper is longer and can exceed a grasshopper’s length of body, though in most cases the antennae are normally the same length as the body. Most grasshoppers have two pairs of wings.
Locusts, on the other hand, are part of a large group of insects called grasshoppers. They differ from grasshoppers in terms of:
They are larger than grasshoppers. An adult locust can grow to a length of 3 inches.
At times, locusts are solitary or individual insects with the lifestyle the same as those of grasshoppers. Their behavior, however, can change from being solitary to forming a large group. This behavioral phase is called the gregarious phase.
The appearance of a solitary or individual adult locust is usually brown in color. In the case of gregarious adults, the appearance changes from brown to pink (immature) and yellow (mature).
d) Coverage of distance
Locusts cover vast distances. The most notable distances covered by a swarm of locusts was in 1954 when they flew from North-West Africa to Great Britain. In 1988, the swarm covered a distance of 5,000km in ten days from West Africa to Caribbean.
A locust consumes food equivalent to its own weight in a day. As noted by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “… A swarm the size of Niarmay (Niger) or Bamako (Mali) eats the same amount of food in one day as half the respective country. A swarm the size of Paris eats the same amount of food in one day as the half population of France; the size of New York City eats in one day the same as everyone in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey; the same size of Francisco eats the same has half of California, the size of Sidney (Australia) eats the same amount of food in one day as Australia eats in 1.5 hours.”
There are 10 species of locusts but the Desert Locust is the most notorious (destructive). “Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth’s land surface. Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s humans,” states National Geographic.
The Desert Locust swarms cover a huge size area from less than one square kilometer to several hundred square kilometers, according to FAO. “There can be at least 40 million and sometimes as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometer of swam.”
In conclusion, “Locusts belong to the grasshopper family but unlike their harmless relatives, they have the unusual ability to live in either a solitary or gregarious state, with the genetic instructions for both packaged within a single genome.” (University of Cambridge)