The death of the Super Hopper

“Picture swirling snow as far as the eye can see — in the middle of summer. Now, imagine this blizzard of flakes transforming into a swarm of locusts. This isn’t just any swarm, but the largest congregation of animal life that the human race has ever known. Picture yourself in Plattsmouth, Neb., in the summer of 1875.

A swarm of Rocky Mountain locusts streams overhead for five days, creating a living eclipse of the sun. It is a superorganism composed of 10 billion individuals, devouring as much vegetation as a massive herd of bison — a metabolic wildfire that races across the Great Plains. Before the year is up, a vast region of pioneer agriculture will be decimated and U.S. troops will be mobilized to distribute food, blankets and clothing to devastated farm families.”

“Today, this is hard to imagine; it sounds like an old Alfred Hitchcock thriller. But if we find it difficult to envision such masses of life, it is even more challenging to grasp that within 30 years of Dr. Child’s account of the largest insect swarm ever recorded anywhere, this species disappeared — forever. The last living specimen of the Rocky Mountain locust was collected in 1902 on the Canadian prairie.”

http://www.hcn.org/issues/243/13695

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