There are more insects on Earth than there are human beings. Billions more. In fact, there are so many insects that they can sometimes swarm in the millions and devastate the landscape. Swarms are large numbers of insects that get together for a collective purpose. This purpose can be migration, mating, or eating. Swarming is a behavior that occurs more often than most people realize. Sometimes these swarms get so massive that they are positively biblical, as in the swarm of locusts that destroyed ancient Egypt’s crops. Here are a few massive swarms that have appeared in recent memory.
1931 Grasshoppers in the Midwest
Grasshoppers are famous for swarming and devouring miles of crop along the way. This usually happens as part of the mating drive, when certain conditions cause their wings and jaws to grow making them into hungry eating machines. They fly farther, and eat more as a result. The 1931 Swarm landed in the heartland of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa in July. There are so many grasshoppers that they blocked out the sun and ate crops right down to the ground. People had to use shovels to scoop dead grasshoppers off the ground. This swarm was particularly bad because it occurred in the midst of the Great Depression and the Dustbowl, placing even more hardship on a strained nation.
2009 Ladybugs on Green Mountain
In Boulder, Colorado the residents experienced a very buggy summer of 2009 when millions of ladybugs landed to feast on a bumper crop of aphids. This swarm of bugs is mainly carnivorous, so the plants weren’t in too much danger, but the very wet spring provided plenty of green plants for the growth of other insects including aphids, slugs, snails, mosquitoes, and ants. The ladybugs were everywhere as they feasted on these insects. People reported seeing so many ladybugs on tree trunks that it appeared as if the bark itself were moving.
Double Cicada Hatching of 1998
Cicadas are large, winged bugs with massive eyes and no mouth parts. They live underground in a larval stage for a decade of their lives before emerging to develop wings as adults. These adults fly, mate, and die. They are not at all dangerous, but they are scary looking and sounding. Massive broods of cicada live under the North American continent, but they only come out once every 13 or 17 years. This is bad enough on its own when millions of bugs line the tree trunks and sidewalks, making chirping noises all night. However, once every 221 years, the brood hatchings will align and both 13 and 17 year cicadas crawl up out of the ground. This happened in 1998 and cicadas swarmed the northern and southern states of America in the millions. Luckily, this won’t happen again for another two hundred years.
Insect swarms are no joke. They can be quite annoying and cause lots of damage. However, not all swarms are locusts and grasshoppers. Some swarms are from normally harmless insects that in large numbers cause a lot of problems.
About the author: Chris is a blogger for a Union Exterminator company.