EO Study: Locust!


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It’s hard not to have at least a grudging respect for the desert locust. It has survived on Earth for millions of years, thriving in the heat and aridity of the world’s most inhospitable deserts. For the most part, the insect known as Schistocerca gregaria goes quietly about its inscrutable insect business, a solitary and inconspicuous brown speck concealed in clumps of widely scattered desert vegetation, subsisting on even the most noxious weeds when necessary.


Locust with Shadow


Photograph of Locust Swarm in Madagascar

Our admiration can only be carried so far, though, when this seemingly shy and inconspicuous insect reveals its surprising dark side. Throughout recorded human history, and surely long before, locust plagues have periodically poured forth from their arid confines and invaded areas where people live, farm, and graze their livestock. Their impact on human lives has often been so crippling that records of plagues have taken on religious significance and made their way into sacred and historical texts.

next The Reach of the Desert Locust

The data used in this study are available in one or more of NASA's Earth Science Data Centers.

  A farmer in Madagascar watches a locust swarm form a menacing haze on the horizon. Locust swarms can destroy crops worth millions of dollars, and—more seriously—trigger famines among subsistence farmers. Working with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, NASA scientists harnessed remote sensing satellites to help predict locust outbreaks. (Photograph Copyright Patrick Bollen)