USA: Maybe the way to control locusts is by growing crops they don't like
By Joe Palca
Locusts have been a threat to food security since biblical times. They are voracious eaters and are difficult and expensive to control. For example, according to a 2005 paper, it cost $450 million to stop the 2003-2005 desert locust plague in Africa that caused $2.5 billion in crop damage.
That's why scientists at Arizona State University have created the Global Locust Initiative. It seeks to "link partners and ideas and to avoid reinventing the wheel," says Arianne Cease, director of the initiative. The idea is to get people information they need before a plague occurs.
Overson says the lab is studying all aspects of locust life — how they behave, what microbes are in their gut — looking for weaknesses they can exploit. One promising avenue of research involves what locusts like to eat.
"It turns out that every locust we've studied to date is very carbohydrate hungry and does well and performs well on carbohydrate- or sugary-based diets," Overson says.