Common name: PLAGUE LOCUST
name: Schistocerca gregaria ???
Commercial breeders have some techniques and equipment that will not
be disclosed on this page. Commercial knowledge has considerable
value. Some pieces of equipment are very cheap and simple, but until
they are more widely and openly discussed I will maintain the
confidentiality. It will not detract from the following information as
the undisclosed information or equipment relates to time savings or
efficiency gains. The overall methodology remains the same.
- Life cycle: about 3 months
- Developmental stages: Egg - nymph with 5 instar stages- winged
- Size: (approx) adults 60 mm long.
- Adults: Wings = Yes. Flight = Yes. Flight frequency
Often / Rarely /
Fed to: Depending on the size of locust chosen, these insects
can be fed to: Birds - most finches, softbills, weavers, whydahs,
waxbills, quail and some parrots. Marsupials, reptiles, frogs, rodents,
fish, spiders, scorpions, etc.
Cost: Adults 50 cents each or more. Nymphs-varies according
to size. Available all year round from specialist breeders. Generally
not available in retail shops.
Breeding of the locust requires a large investment in a fully
insulated production room and the necessity to grow the cereal grass
needed to feed the insects. There is no avenue to cut corners with this
insect. Fail at even one stage and the whole system can come to a
sudden stop. Heat, hygiene and a never ending supply of fresh green
The production routine is simple, the feeding is simple, the
facilities are simple, hygiene routine is simple. It is no fun working
in 35 degree Celsius room for long especially as a face mask should
always be used when in the room with the locusts. A cage 500 mm x 500
mm x 500 will only hold about 200 adults and you have to keep the sizes
separate so if you need to produce just 200 adults per week it will be
necessary to have 12 cages in use at all times. A big cage volume for a
Locusts Eat: Essential food is growing cereal grasses with a
side dish of wheat bran. Optional extra is compressed dry lucerne
Preferred facilities and husbandry: For
breeders or holding large quantities.
General information: From my view point the raising of
insects is simple if some basic rules are followed. Firstly, put aside
all the ideas you currently have and review what is to come. The locust
is the most expensive insect you would want to breed.
Insect production is no different to the production of any other
animals. Give them an environment suitable for their growth and
breeding, plus adequate food and moisture and keep them safe from
predators and minimize disease contamination.
Facilities: Two are essential.
First. For the production of uniform size locusts a constant
even temperature of about 35 degrees Celsius (and that includes 4
AM in the morning in winter when the owner is snuggled up in bed) with a
humidity of as little as possible is necessary. The alternative
is to have a two heat level system. Lower temperature at night and full
temperature during the day. The varying temperature routine produces
insects of a non uniform size. An insulated room or cabinet is required
to maintain these levels. No cheap insulation short cuts here. The use
of 125 mm or 150 mm thick insulated panel walls and roof for larger
breeding rooms is an essential investment and repays the investment very
quickly with cost effective heating costs. The room or cabinet should
have a fan assisted ventilation system to remove the stale air and
supply clean fresh air. Inside the room it is essential to have a fan
operating 24 hours a day to maintain even distribution of heat and
humidity. Poor air movement increases the chances of high humidity
pockets and the likely hood of mould or mildew occurring. Poor air
movement increases the chance of an outbreak of mites. The mites
generally do no harm to the locust but mites can be very annoying after
handling the boxes, feeling them crawling up your arms, face and body.
Second facility required for locusts. A glass house, hot
house or similar enclosed environment is essential. The cereal grass
cannot be grown outdoors subject to airborne diseases or parasites.
Hydroponic "fodder factories" are perfect. It is not worth trying to
breed locusts until you have mastered the art of growing cereal grasses
to a height of approx 200 mm (8 inches) high. The cereal grass production has to
be done on a daily basis. Two days without fresh cereal grass and the
locusts start to die. If you think you can just go out and collect
grass from anywhere you will soon have the colony start to die. There
is an airborne disease (fungal) that is both naturally occurring as well
as commercially produced and sprayed to kill plague locusts. The
infectious agent lands on grass, locusts eat the grass and are usually
dead in about 24 hours. The infection is specific to locusts. The
infection is highly contagious and difficult to eradicate from the
locust breeding cages.
To grow a continuous supply of cereal grass in winter may require
additional heated growing beds.
Vacuuming the breeding room floor minimizes the build up of
mites as they generally like to spend a lot of their time at a lower
temperature than the locusts. The vacuum cleaner should be ducted
externally to ensure any pathogens that pass through the vacuum cleaner
filters do not get to contaminate the room. Externally ducted systems
remove the possibility of people inhaling allergens that get through the
filters. The airborne allergens from locusts are more dangerous to
people than the allergens from most other insects. Inhaled allergens
can, if one is susceptible, cause serious respiratory problems including
triggering an asthma attack. Vacuum the floor at least weekly and wash
the floor with household floor disinfectant. Clean the walls with a
soft cloth about 3 monthly using a mild disinfectant or a dish washing
detergent. The intent of the wall cleaning is only to remove any build
up of dust and fine particles. Remove and wash the fan grill and blades
as required. When vacuuming look out for spiders and their webs and
suck them up.
Without a fan the upper level boxes/trays have a constant higher heat
level than lower boxes therefore influencing faster growth or the
possibility of heat stress on those upper level boxes.
Light: Locusts have a photoperiod regime so it is necessary
to have timer controls on the lights. Duration of light is 12 hours per
day. Fluorescent lights for the main lighting and incandescent lights
for personal use when the fluorescent lights are off.
Heating: Two choices. If the whole room is to be heated to
the maximum required level, a good efficient, safe, reliable heater is
essential. Preferably electric as there is no danger of noxious fumes.
Second method is to heat the room to a lower temperature then provide
each cage with an additional heat source usually a 60 watt tungsten
filament light globe placed inside the cage.
Thermostat: A good accurate, reliable, thermostat is also
essential. In larger rooms the installation of double thermostats can
be considered. If a thermostat fails to turn the heater off the locust
may get heat stressed and die. With two thermostats correctly installed
it is highly unlikely both will fail at the same time.
Externally vented extractor fans: As well as removing stale
air, externally vented extractor fans can be of immense help to rapidly
remove excess humidity especially in summer or excess temperature during
Racks: Painted or surface treated steel racks are good,
galvanized steel racks are even better. Mites do not like the zinc
coating. Timber framed racks are very hard to keep clean and provide
numerous places for mites to hide.
Feed storage: For the dry cereal grain seeds, bran and
compressed dry Lucerne cubes.
Rubbish removal: Cages have to be cleaned three times per
week. Observe maximum hygiene when disposing of locust wastes. Wearing
hospital type face masks is essential. See below: "Respiratory and
allergy precautions for humans".
The cages most commonly used are 500 mm x 500 mm x 500 mm with all
walls and roof fly wire mesh supported on a metal frame. Floor is
either fly wire mesh or metal sheet. Most have a clear Perspex sliding
door. The front of the cage can be hinged to allow easy cleaning. This
cage will hold about 500 small nymph size and the density has to be
reduced as they grow till there is about 200 in the cage when adult size
As the nymphs removed from the cage either have to be sold, fed out,
or placed in a fresh clean cage.
A shallow tray of
coarse cereal bran. Top up as required.
Their moisture is
obtained from the fresh grass.
Adults take up to 3
weeks to become sexually mature and maximum egg laying occurs over the
next 2 weeks. They usually live for up to three months depending on
available conditions. Females lay the eggs into containers of moist
sand and under good conditions about 80 % or more hatch. When the
females are past their best egg production feed them and the males off
and start again with a fresh batch.
A wire mesh cage 500 mm x 500 mm x 500 mm should be able to
accommodate about up to 200 adults depending on your skills and
knowledge levels. Over crowding can trigger a disease outbreak.
Nymphs (non winged juveniles):
From hatching to adulthood is about 35 to 45 days with temperatures of
30-35C, and good food availability. If in a cage, the young fail to
thrive and it is not temperature related, it may be parasite related and
is generally best to dispose of the entire contents of the cage,
thoroughly clean the cage and start afresh. A simple microscope
examination of the dissected locust is advised. If rapid growth is not
required, then the temperature can be reduced to as low as 20 degrees C
for the nymphs.
The eggs are usually
deposited in batches deep in the moist sand tray. Time to hatch is
about 16 days when incubated at 28-30 degrees C. The hatchlings cannot
get through fly wire.
lay eggs where ever they find a moist place. They need a suitable
plastic disposable container and a suitable moist media in which to lay
the eggs. Moist clean washed river sand is the most commonly used media
and placed into plastic disposable take away food containers (e.g. 500
ml with 45-50 mm deep sides). The tray is placed in the breeder box
near the front ensuring it is level. Leave it in the cage for no longer
than 48 hours. Remove the egg tray, write the date the tray was
removed on the tray, place in a sealed
clear plastic bag and put it in an incubator at about 28- 30 degrees C
or in a safe place in the breeding room. At 30 degrees C the eggs start
to hatch at about day 16. Have a fresh, clean cage ready to put them
into on day 15. Never reuse the sand. The trays can be reused after
degrees C is maintained 24 hours per day, the following is accurate.
For each 1 degree C decrease in average temperature the growth reduces
by about 10 %.
Never add smaller locusts to an established cage.
Usually just caught individually by hand. Use disposable gloves if
you have skin sensitivity to the locusts (red skin rash). Use a face
Due to their cost,
locusts are usually fed out individually to animals in indoor cages
either by hand or on the end of tweezers. In outdoor or larger units
the locusts are thrown in one or two at a time. Bring the insects to
the birds or animals in a container and give the container a wash before
returning it into the insect production area.
To minimize the rate of escapees when feeding them out, one can
quickly crush the locusts head with tweezers or between your thumb nail
and index finger (wear disposable gloves if you like). It will then be
dead but move long enough to get the animal or reptile's attention and
the locust is then quickly consumed.
Storage of small quantities:
The same principles apply as per breeders but the temperature can be
lowered to no less than 20 degrees C. The usual mistake most people
make is to use small, poorly ventilated containers. The locust likes
lots of space, ventilation and warmth. The best locusts cage is all fly
Disease and infections:
Absolute Rule - If any locusts fall onto the floor they must NEVER be
placed back into ANY cage!! Throw them out or feed them out!! The
disease contamination risk is far too high!!
Never, never, never put or allow wild locusts get into
the breeding room or any cages. They are sure to be carrying diseases
and / or parasites.
Locust colonies can very easily be wiped out by a variety of diseases
caused by viruses and bacteria. Moulds, fungi, internal and external
parasites can quickly wipe out a colony. Maintaining low humidity is
essential to minimize the risk of a bacterial disease outbreak. Mites
are generally not a problem in locust breeding rooms due to the low
(dry) humidity. A mite infestation is an indication of either poor
hygiene or poorly controlled environmental factors. Mites can be a
vector for the spread of diseases. Government animal pathology
laboratories and some private pathology laboratories are able to
identify insect diseases and recommend appropriate treatments. Over
crowding is one of the most common triggers for the outbreak of diseases
along with contaminated feed. Dirty contaminated hands and equipment
will rapidly spread an infection throughout the room.
Golden rule : If you have a colony of insects that are
breeding well, do not add any stages of the locust from any other
outside source and in no circumstances allow any of the foreign frass or
feed material into any of the places used for breeding your locusts.
Some commercial breeders and research laboratories have continuously
bred locusts for over 20 years without the need to introduce new genetic
If it becomes absolutely necessary to introduce more insects to your
colony, make sure appropriate quarantine procedures are implemented.
Place them in a cage of their own and not into a current colony. If
anything bad happens in that box, dispose of all the quarantined lot and
implement strict disinfection procedures. An infection can easily kill
100% of a colony and eradication can be a long arduous task. The wire
mesh cages are very hard to totally disinfect once contaminated. At
30-35 degrees C, external or internal parasites can multiply at an
My philosophy is: prevention of disease outbreaks is better than
having to cure the disease or parasite outbreaks (It's also cheaper).
Respiratory and allergy precautions for humans:
The following is applicable to all insects.
As stated above, the dusts in the breeding room and any fine insect
tissues, when inhaled, can cause reactions requiring medical
intervention. The longer one inhales the contaminant the more severe
the reaction can be. The effect can be cumulative and the longer you
breath it in, the longer it may take to cure (sometimes years). The
main contaminant is the (4) proteins in the insects frass (droppings/
excrement). When this material is inhaled into susceptible peoples
lungs, they may react badly. General rule is never keep a breeding
locust colony in a residential house.
While handling locusts, do not rub your eyes as the fine material can
have an adverse reaction and cause strong eye irritation. Wash hands
and any exposed areas to minimize the risk of skin irritation after you
finish your tasks.
It is unwise to use a broom or similar cleaning product in the
breeding room to clean the floor as it is likely to stir up dust which
can be inhaled or settle in a breeding box or on other equipment
resulting in a disease outbreak.
When it comes to disposing of the frass (excrement) from the locust
cage, take every conceivable measure to minimize the inhalation of any
dust or material and to prevent its spread to others. A wise precaution
is to shower and wash your hair if you get contaminated. Pop the cloths
into the washing machine for a good wash before using them again. Never
go to bed with "bug dust" in your hair as you will inhale it throughout
the night from on your pillow.
Locusts cause more health problems than most insects, both skin
rashes and inhaled respiratory ailments. Most people tolerate some
degree of contamination but if you exceed the "trigger point threshold"
and get a bad reaction, seek medical attention and tell the
medico what you have been inhaling. Medical respiratory allergy
specialists are available in Capital cities if required.
My philosophy is: prevention of possible health problems is better
than having to cure a real health problem (It's also cheaper).
- Australian Aviculture Vol 48 No. 9 Sept 1994 Page 201-202
Top of - locusts - Page