Monday, August 17, 2009

Year of the Locust

For some reason, there have been a lot of grasshoppers around this year. Big ones. From a distance they look like birds or bats in flight, only giving themselves away by the clumsy way they land. At peak density a couple months ago, it seemed there was always one or two in flight wherever you looked. And when a troop of monkeys passed through the canopy, a dozen or more grasshoppers would take to wing at once (being a tasty treat among Spider Monkeys and White Face Capuchins). On one occasion, I watched as spider monkeys moving through the mango tree let loose a volley of grasshoppers, one of which was picked off on the wing by an enterprising Roadside Hawk who'd been lurking in the shadows.

Ever wonder at the difference between locusts and grasshoppers? I did, so I asked ( Turns out, not much. Physically, you can't tell them apart. Locusts are known for having a swarming phase, usually distinct morphologically. Many locusts are now known to be just the swarming phase of a previously presumed different species. And some grasshopper species sometime engage in gregarious (swarming) behavior.

So far, no swarming. Lucky me.

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