Back biting is locusts' natural behaviour

Published: Monday 30 June 2008

-- (Credit: SHYAMAL)locusts move in swarms to save their butts. Literally, say researchers from the us, the uk and Australia. They are a menace for crops, because they move around in swarms. But their collective movement is hardly a sign of unity. The fact is there is a constant threat of attack from those approaching from behind; this gives the swarms their forward thrust, says the study published in the May 20 issue of Current Biology.

The study used a model with two groups of insects, one with rear vision and terminated abdominal sensation, and other with their systems intact.

The researchers observed that the fear of being cannibalized was non-existent in locusts that had rear vision and were without abdominal sensation. Hence they did not move ahead. In the other group, the fear of being cannibalized from behind for nutrients led to the movement ahead. The researchers say studies on locust behaviour, like theirs, could be used to prevent mass migration of the insects and thus save crops.

While scientists worldwide have been studying locust behaviour with the aim to control the menace, India continues to use pesticides to control locusts.

"We spray malathion to control the locusts at the nymph stage. The spraying is carried out in the desert and hence the locusts do not reach the cropped area," said R M Shukla, deputy director, Locust-Warning Organization, Jodhpur.

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