Monday, September 13, 2010

Plague of Locusts

I’m sorry I missed the end of August, but I was kind of getting married, so I hope you’ll excuse the late post. Since I just moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan1, I decided I needed to write about a local Endangered Ugly Thing. Meet the Lake Huron Locust (Trimerotropis huroniana)

Image by Thomas Bentley, via

This locust is a drab-looking grasshopper, and not one to stand out in a crowd. It’s about an inch long, slate grey, and looks like a large number of related insects. The biggest characteristic that sets them apart from other grasshoppers is their habitat. Instead of living in thick grasses or dense woodlands, they live on meagerly vegetated beaches. There, they blend in with the sand and eat the sparse grasses that grow there.

Like most grasshoppers, male Lake Huron Locusts use the familiar melodic (or grating, depending on your preference) chirping to attract a mate. They also add an aerial element to their ritual, flying up in the air, snapping their wings to make a crackling noise2. Eggs laid in the summer hatch the next spring, and mature in time to start the cycle again.

One of the largest threats to the Lake Huron Locust is the creation of summer homes on the dune habitats where these insects reside. This irks me, as the “summer” here lasts approximately from mid-July to mid-August. Protecting the dunes and the vegetation found there is the most effective method to keep these little locusts alive.

1This is properly pronounced “da U.P., eh?”
2Does it surprise you to know that entomologists have a name for this? It’s called “crepitating”.