LOCUST (Heb. אַרְבֶּה, arbeh), one of the four insects which, having "jointed legs above their feet, wherewith to leap upon the earth," are permitted as food (Lev. 11:21–22). The locust was one of the ten plagues of Egypt (Ex. 10:4–19). The reference is to the Sudanese locust, Schistocerca gregaria, a pest that reached Ereẓ Israel in large numbers every few years causing havoc to agriculture. The Bible and talmudic literature describe the plague of locusts as one of the worst visitations to come upon the country. Its gravity and extent varied from time to time, one of the severest plagues having taken place in the days of the prophet Joel who devoted most of his prophecy to it. His precise descriptions of the locusts' development, sweep, and damage were confirmed in the extremely serious plague of locusts that visited Ereẓ Israel in 1915 when the crops were entirely destroyed in most parts of the country.
During the plague the locust undergoes various metamorphoses from the larva to the fully-grown, the stages of its development being given in Joel (2:25) in the expressions אַרְבֶּה (arbeh), יֶלֶק (yelek), חָסִיל (ḥasil), and גָּזָם (gazam), the last of these being the fully grown male or female. After being fertilized, the female lays a cluster of eggs in a hole which it makes in the ground. From the eggs, dark wingless larvae, the size of tiny ants, are hatched, these being the yelek, a word apparently connected with לָקַק, "to lap," "lick up." Eating the tender vegetation of the field, the yelek grows rapidly, and since (as with all insects) its epidermis does not become bigger, it sheds it at various stages of its growth, during which it changes the color of its skin. The next stage, during which its skin is pink, is the ḥasil, which word, from the root חסל, refers to its total destruction of the vegetation of the field, for at this stage it consumes enormous quantities; hence ḥasil is used as a synonym for arbeh. Thus in Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the Temple he declared that during a plague of arbeh ḥasil people would come there to pray for its riddance (i Kings 8:37; cf. Ps. 78:46). It now casts its skin twice, grows short wings, and becomes the gazam. At this juncture, when no more vegetation is left in the field, it "cuts off" (this being the meaning of גָּזָם) and chews the bark of trees with its powerful jaws; as Joel (1:7) says: "he hath made it (the fig-tree) clean bare… the branches thereof are made white"; and Amos (4:9): it devours "your gardens and your vineyards and your fig-trees and your olive-trees." Finally, after casting a further epidermis, it becomes the fully grown, long-winged arbeh, the yellow-colored female which is fit to lay its eggs. This cycle of the locust's development extends from spring until June when the swarms of locusts return to their place of origin or are blown by the wind to the Mediterranean or Dead Sea (Joel 2:20).
Joel refers to the locust as "the northern one," which is seemingly strange since it comes from the south. But in contemporary times (especially in 1915) it was found that swarms of locusts reach Jerusalem from the north. The means of fighting an invading swarm of locusts were very limited. While attempts were made to drive them away by making a noise (Job 39:20), reliance was chiefly placed on the mercy of the Lord by praying and proclaiming a fast and a solemn assembly (Joel 2:15). In talmudic literature, locusts are included among the disasters for which the alarm of the ram's horn (shofar) was sounded and a public fast held (Ta'an. 3:5). A plague of locusts brought famine in its wake, sometimes even in the following years by reason of the damage done to fruit trees. Having no other source of food, the people collected the locusts, dried and preserved them as food. The Mishnah cites divergent views on whether the blessing "by whose word all things exist" is to be said when eating locusts (in the Mishnah גּוֹבַאי (govai), in the Bible גּוֹבָי (govai); Nah. 3:17), one view being that since it "is in the nature of a curse, no blessing is said over it" (Ber. 6:3). In ancient times however they were regarded as a frugal meal and especially associated with *asceticism, as when John the Baptist ate only "locusts and wild honey" (Matt. 3:4; Mark 1:6). Some Yemenite Jews still eat fried locusts. In recent years swarms of locusts have at times visited countries neighboring on Israel, frequently originating in Africa and the Arabian peninsula, but modern methods have succeeded in destroying them in time by spraying from the air or by poison on the ground.
Lewysohn, Zool, 285ff., 370; Whiting, in: National Geographic Magazine, 28 (1915), 511–50; F.S. Bodenheimer, Studien zur Epidemologie, Oekologie und Physiologie der afrikanischen Wanderheuschrecke (1930). add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 209.
locust (in zoology)
locust, in zoology, name for certain migratory members of the short-horned grasshopper family (Acrididae). Like other members of this family, locusts have antennae shorter than their bodies, song-producing organs on the forewings and hind legs, and hind legs well developed for jumping. Locusts lay their eggs in the ground; when the nymphs hatch they are wingless and move across the land by walking. Typical locusts (e.g., species of the Old World genus Locusta) have two distinct adult forms, a short-winged migratory form and a long-winged nonmigratory form.
Locust migration is an occasional event, which follows an enormous buildup of a locust population. The young locusts, called nymphs, only develop into the migratory form under certain environmental conditions, which also lead to a population increase. Not all of the environmental factors involved are known, but one is hot weather. The first generation produced after a migration is not usually migratory.
When migration occurs the locust swarms are so dense as to blacken the sky over an area of many miles. When the insects finally settle, after traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, they begin to feed, consuming enormous quantities of vegetation. Locusts are serious agricultural pests. Spraying with solutions of arsenic and overturning the soil can destroy the eggs.
Locusts are most common in Africa and Asia, but also occur in the United States. The Rocky Mountain locust, Melanopolus spretus, a species that is now apparently extinct, destroyed millions of dollars worth of crops on the Great Plains between 1874 and 1877. A single swarm contained an estimated 124 billion insects. Cicadas are sometimes called locusts in the United States but are related to aphids and leafhoppers, not grasshoppers.
Locusts are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Orthoptera, suborder Caelifera, family Acrididae.
lo·cust / ˈlōkəst/ • n. 1. a large and mainly tropical grasshopper, esp. the migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), with strong powers of flight. It is usually solitary, but from time to time there is a population explosion, and it migrates in vast swarms that cause extensive damage to crops. ∎ (also seventeen-year locust) the periodical cicada. 2. (also locust bean) the large edible pod of some plants of the pea family, in particular the carob bean, which is said to resemble a locust. 3. (also locust tree) any of a number of pod-bearing trees of the pea family, in particular the carob tree and the black locust.
locust (in botany)
locust, in botany, any species of the genus Robinia, deciduous trees or shrubs of the family Leguminosae (pulse family) native to the United States and Mexico. The locusts have pendent clusters of flowers similar to the sweet pea; these are very fragrant in the black, or yellow, locust (R. pseudoacacia), which is the common locust, sometimes also called acacia, or false acacia. This species has been widely planted in the past for ornamental purposes, for erosion control, and for its useful wood, but the locust borer has killed it in many areas. Its heavy, hard, durable wood has been used extensively for treenails in shipbuilding, for fence posts, for turning, and for fuel. The shoots and bark of the black locust are poisonous. The honey locust belongs to a different genus of this family, as does the carob, which is thought to have been the biblical locust. Locust is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
1. One of several species of acridids (order Orthoptera, family Acrididae) which show density-related changes in their morphology and behaviour. At low population densities the insects develop as solitary, cryptically coloured grasshoppers (phase solitaria). At higher densities, such as may result from an abundance of food after rain, the insects develop into gregarious, brightly coloured individuals, which swarm and migrate, often causing great destruction to vegetation (phase gregaria). Major species include Locusta migratoria (migratory locust), Schistocerca gregaria (desert locust), and Nomadacris septemfasciata (red locust).
2. (carob) The pod and seeds of trees belonging to the leguminous tree Ceratonia siliqua.
3. A common name for leguminous trees and shrubs of the genus Robinia, also known as false acacia.
A. destructive insect migrating in swarms XIII;
B. fruit of the carob (supposed to have been the food of John the Baptist); carobtree, etc. XVII. — (O)F. locuste — L. locusta locust, lobster, of unkn. orig.