Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera)

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Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera)
Australian plague locust
Distribution
Australia
Taxonomy
Family:Acrididae
Subfamily:Oedipodinae
Genus:Chortoicetes
Additional resources
Full taxonomy from OSF


The Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera) is widespread on the mainland of Australia and known as the most economically significant locust species, attributed to both the extent and frequency of its outbreaks, along with its ability to produce multiple generations in a year.[1] It is also the only locust species restricted to Australia.[2] Ecologically, C. terminifera primarily inhabits grasslands and semi-arid regions. They are polyphagous, feeding on various grasses and crops, which often leads to significant agricultural damage during outbreaks.

Nomenclature

​​Chortoicetes terminifera (Walker, 1870). For full nomenclature, see this taxon's page on Orthoptera Species File.


Identification

The Australian plague locust shows extreme density-dependent behavioral changes yet it does not display the color and shape modifications observed in other locust species.[1][3] Adults make short flights close to the ground which is typical of several grasshopper species, including the eastern plague grasshopper.[4] However, APL adults are recognizable due to the prominent dark spot located at the tip of their hindwings, along with their distinctive scarlet hind tibia.[5] Adult body color is variable and can be grey, brown, or green. Similarly, nymphs range from brown to green. When viewed from above, the thorax bears a 'X' marking similar to that of the adult insect.[6] In the early developmental stages, the hind portion of the 'X' is more prominent. The femur of the hind leg displays clear bands, with three light and three dark bands visible from above during early instars, and three light and two dark bands in later instars. When viewed from the side, these bands run perpendicular to the femur. The rear tibia is predominantly dark, except for a light band at its upper portion. The body exhibits a general mottled appearance rather than distinct patterns when viewed from the side.[6] For more information on how to differentiate from other similar nymphs click here.

Review information from the Australian Plague Locust Commission

Phase Stage Color Wings Body length
Gregarious nymph brown, grey
Gregarious immature adult brown, grey
Gregarious mature adult brown, grey Topwing spotted, hindwing clear with dark spot on the tip males 25-30 mm females 30-42 mm [6]
Solitarious nymph green
Solitarious immature adult green
Solitarious adult green Dark spot on hindwing

Identification resources

Title Link Descriptive keyword Language Geographic purview Author Year
Agriculture Victoria Australian plague locust identification, biology and behaviour View URL Species identification, Biology, Behavior English Australia Agriculture Victoria 2022
APLC locust and grasshopper identification guide View URL Management, Species identification English Australia Australian Plague Locust Commission
Australian plague locust online learning module View URL Species identification, Biology, Behavior, Management English Australia Agriculture Victoria 2022
Locusts of Australia View URL Management, Species identification English Australia Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries 2020
Orthoptera Species File View URL Species identification, Biology English Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania Orthoptera Species File Online



Distribution

The Australian plague locust is found in Australia.[5] It is widespread on the mainland and commonly found in tussock grasslands and open woodlands. [6] [7] Adult Australian plague locusts are nomadic, covering up to twenty kilometers a day in swarms and flying nocturnally at heights of up to 1000 meters. The Australian plague locust is able to fly over 500 km in a single night. [8] Their migration can be aided by winds that sometimes allow them to reach coastal areas and even northern Tasmania. [6] The Australian plague locust is prevalent in much of eastern Australia, typically west of the Dividing Range, avoiding coastal regions and generally absent north of 21°S.[2] It is also present in Western Australia and can sometimes be economically significant in the south-western cropping area. In western Queensland, this species occasionally leads to crop losses in Roma and the southern border areas. Outbreaks frequently occur in the Channel Country, particularly in regions with durable grasses like Mitchell grass (Astrebla spp.). Rainfall in these grassy areas facilitates maturation and egg development, leading to sustained green vegetation until nymphs mature into adults. Swarms typically migrate southward and southwestward, impacting areas in New South Wales and South Australia.[2]

The Australian plague locust becomes inactive below 15°C, with most adults dying in southern winter months. Eggs laid autumn in the southern part of its range enter diapause, hatching in late spring, leading to multiple generations annually, typically three but varying with latitude and regional conditions. [6]

For more information and distribution records see [GBIF]

Biology

Typically, there are two to four generations of C. terminifera from spring (September) to autumn (May) each year, depending on the location's latitude.[7] [9] Diapause eggs stay inactive during winter and start growing again to hatch when soil temperatures rise in spring. Developing embryos may also pause their growth in response to low soil moisture levels at two specific stages, which occur roughly 25%-30% and 40%-45% through their total development time. The mix of various growth speeds and dormancy leads to various possible paths of development, which can align the timing of the population with short periods of favorable habitat conditions. [10]

Review information from the Australian Plague Locust Commission


Life cycle parameters [6]
Phase Developmental time
Eggs 15-30 days
Hopper 20-25 days
Adult 7-8 weeks
Laying-fledging 1 weeks
Adult maturation 1-2 weeks
Total 8-9 weeks

Habitat and ecology

The potential habitats of the Australian plague locust span approximately two million square kilometers, encompassing half of inland eastern Australia. [6] These areas are primarily grasslands and open woodland with loam or stone-mantled desert loam soils. Habitats for locusts encompass the Mitchell grass downs located in western Queensland, as well as the chenopod low open shrublands found throughout southern Australia. However, favorable weather conditions can trigger a significant population surge, prompting migrations into other regions. Landscapes typically unsuitable for locust breeding comprise forested areas, woodlands, rocky terrains, desert sandplains, and dune fields.[6] [11]

The Australian plague locust is primarily graminivorous.[5] Macro-nutrient ratios are important to food selection.[12] The Australian plague locust prefers a carbohydrate-biased diet. [13] Hoppers are voracious eaters and gravitate toward the sparse vegetation associated with egg beds. In the wheat belt, oviposition sites are usually hard, bare areas, stock roads, thin pastures, and banks of creeks. Hoppers remain in these areas for a few days after hatching. Later-stage nymphs and adults are found in a variety of habitats apart from dense pastures and wooded areas. [11] The ideal habitat consists of bare ground for basking, low (less than 10 cm) green vegetation, and taller tussocks (up to a meter) for night shelter.[5]

Land-use change

The outbreak range of the Australian plague locust has been predicted to decrease. [14][15] However, the clearing of forest and woodland vegetation has increased the potential habitat area in the agricultural regions of southern and eastern Australia. [6] The spatial distribution of outbreaks is primarily influenced by factors such as the seasonal patterns of precipitation, the average temperature of the coldest and driest quarters, and the magnitude of temperature fluctuations between day and night.

Pest status

While population increases can be confined to one or two regions, major outbreaks span several states and usually occur when plentiful rainfall and soil moisture coincide with temperatures conducive to locust development across much of their eastern or western habitat range. [10] Plagues of C. terminifera usually don't last long compared to locusts in other parts of the world. They happen about once every ten years and typically last for one to two years, but sometimes they can last up to four in years of substantial rainfall.[16] [10] [17] Only four times in the last 80 years has there been widespread plagues lasting more than one year. Outbreaks are spatially variable and areas with high densities of locusts one year might not have them the next year. [18] [19]

From the 1800s to the early 1900s, locusts caused substantial difficulties for Australian farmers striving to establish sustainable livelihoods.[10] The first outbreaks of the Australian Plague locust were documented in the early 1870s.[20] [21] However, since World War II, the consolidation and diversification of agriculture, the implementation of large-scale locust control methods, and the presence of social welfare have generally lessened personal hardships. [10] Nonetheless, farmers can still endure notable economic losses during critical periods and the Australian plague locust still stands as one of the most significant and extensively distributed agricultural pests in the country. [22] They impact a range of crops, including cereal crops, clover, cotton, potatoes, sugar cane, orchards, vegetables, and pasture grasses.[5]

A significant plague in the 1930s prompted a nationwide research effort to tackle the "grasshopper problem". [23] While another notable plague occurred in the 1950s, it was the 1973–74 outbreak spanning across New South Wales, northern Victoria, and southern South Australia that led to the establishment of the Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC). Subsequently, there have been five plagues occurring at approximately decade-long intervals. [21] Among these, one of the most severe and the most recent was the 2010 plague, with roughly 2,000 landholders reporting high-density hopper bands.[23] From 2010 onward, there have been a few isolated outbreaks and population numbers have remained low from 2017-2023. However, spring 2021 saw a marked increase in locust populations. Read detailed reports from the APLC Locust Bulletins here.

Management of C. terminifera involves monitoring and forecasting to predict outbreaks, combined with targeted control measures. The Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC) plays a key role in management through surveillance and control methods. https://www.agriculture.gov.au/pests-diseases-weeds/locusts/about/australia See the Australian Plague Locust Commission] for more extensive information on the management of the Australian plague locust including situation bulletins.

Recent outbreaks

Outbreak media coverage

No results found on the wiki for this species.


Associated organizations

Organization Acronym Website Type Focus Focus keywords Geographic purview Species purview
Agriculture Victoria View URL Government Management, Education Management Australia Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis)
Australian National University ANU View URL University Research Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
Australian Plague Locust Commission APLC View URL Government Management, Research, Governance Agricultural Development, Control, Coordination, Education, Emergency Assistance, Forecasting, Funding, Governance, Information Hub, International Development, Media, Monitoring, Policy, Regional Cooperation, Research, Sustainable Development, Technology, Training, Natural sciences Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
Australian Research Council ARC View URL Government Funding Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry View URL Government Information Hub Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development DPI WA View URL Government Management Monitoring, Control, Forecasting, Training Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
Department of Primary Industries and Regions PIRSA View URL Government Management, Development, Information Hub Control, Sustainable Development Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
Global Locust Initiative GLI View URL University Research, Education, Information Hub Sustainable Development, Ecology, Nutrition, Social science, Natural sciences, Agriculture, Agroecology, Biology, Behavior, Biological Control, Climate Change, Education, Sustainability Science, Geometric Framework, Grazing, Governance, Food Security, Arts and humanities, Land Use Management, Landscape Ecology, Locusts, Migration, Phase Polyphenism, Phenotypic Plasticity, Soil Science United States of America, Senegal, Australia, China, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mali Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Mongolian locust (Oedaleus decorus), Senegalese grasshopper (Oedaleus senegalensis), Migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), American grasshopper (Schistocerca americana), South American locust (Schistocerca cancellata), Central American locust (Schistocerca piceifrons)
Land Care Australia LCA View URL Government Funding Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
New South Wales Department of Primary Industries NSW DPI View URL Government Education, Management Monitoring, Control, Forecasting, Training, Natural sciences Australia Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Yellow-winged locust (Gastrimargus musicus)
Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries QLD DPI View URL Government Management Monitoring, Control, Forecasting, Natural sciences Australia Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Wingless grasshopper (Phaulacridium vittatum), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis), Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria)
Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food DPIRD View URL Government Information Hub, Governance, Management Coordination, Monitoring Australia Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), Spur-throated locust (Austracris guttulosa), Small plague grasshopper (Austroicetes cruciata), Eastern plague locust (Oedaleus australis)


Resources

Title Link Descriptive keyword Language Geographic purview Author Year
Agriculture Victoria locust and grasshopper online reporting form View URL Report English Australia Agriculture Victoria
Australian Plague Locust Commission current locust situation View URL Locusts, Locust outbreaks, Outbreaks, Infestations, Distribution, Monitoring, Forecasting, Information hub, Weather, Rainfall English Australia Australian Plague Locust Commission
Australian Plague Locust Commission locust bulletin View URL Locusts, Monitoring, Migration, Forecasting, Advisory note, Weather, Rainfall, Behavior, Survey, Distribution, Map English Australia Australian Plague Locust Commission
Australian plague locust landholder control strategies for NSW View URL Management English Australia Government of New South Wales
CABI Green Muscle education videos View URL Video, Biological control, Biopesticide, Metarhizium acridum, Storage, Dosage, Application, PPE and cleaning Arabic, French, Russian, English Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania 2021
Locust Literature View URL Archive French, English Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania The French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development
Locusts in Queensland View URL Taxonomy, History, Distribution, Biology, Ecology, Management English Australia Queensland Government 2003
NSF Coupled Natural Human Systems Living with Locusts project summary Summary English, Spanish, French Senegal, Australia, China, United States of America Australian Plague Locust Commission, Chinese Academy of Sciences Institute of Zoology, New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, Grassland Research Institute, Inner Mongolia Agriculture University, Lanzhou University, New South Wales Local Land Services, Peace Corps Senegal, Directorate of Plant Protection, Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, Chinese Academy of Sciences, University of Sydney 2021
Sustainable use and conservation of microbial and invertebrate biological control agents and microbial biostimulants View URL Management, Biological control, Biopesticide English Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Oceania Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International 2023


References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The State of Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (2023) Locusts. Queensland Government. 1-6. https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/5afadaf9-2451-40eb-933f-1d3c0bb7f75e/locusts.pdf?ETag=ba0179fc61ecc1764ca311ca818304eb
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Walton CS, Hardwick L, Hanson J (2003) Locust in Queensland Pest status review series - Land protection. Queensland Government Department of Natural Resources and Mines, Qld. https://www.daf.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/75963/IPA-Locusts-PSA.pdf
  3. Simpson SJ, Sword GA (2008) Locusts. Current Biology 18: R364–R366. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2008.02.029
  4. The State of Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (2023) Locusts. 1-6. https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/ckan-publications-attachments-prod/resources/5afadaf9-2451-40eb-933f-1d3c0bb7f75e/locusts.pdf?ETag=ba0179fc61ecc1764ca311ca818304eb
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 COPR (1982) The Locust and Grasshopper Agricultural Manual. London: Overseas Pest Research. 690.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 Australian Plague Locust Commission. Australian Government, https://www.agriculture.gov.au/pests-diseases-weeds/locusts. Accessed 8/11/21.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Hunter DM, Walker PW, Elder RJ (2001) Adaptations of locusts and grasshoppers to the low and variable rainfall of Australia. Journal of Orthoptera Research 10: 347–351.
  8. Symmons PM, McCulloch L (1980) Persistence and migration of Chortoicetes terminifera (Walker) (Orthoptera: Acrididae) in Australia. Bulletin of Entomological Research 70: 197–201.
  9. Farrow RA (1982) Population dynamics of the Australian plague locust, Chortoicetes terminifera (Walker) in Central Western New South Wales Ii. Factors influencing natality and survival. Australian Journal of Zoology 30: 199–222.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 Adriaansen C, Woodman JD, Deveson E, Drake VA (2016) Chapter 4.1 - The Australian Plague Locust—Risk and Response. In: Shroder JF, Sivanpillai R (Eds), Biological and Environmental Hazards, Risks, and Disasters. Academic Press, Boston, 67–86. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-394847-2.00005-X
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lawton D, Waters C, Le Gall M, Cease A (2020) Woody vegetation remnants within pastures influence locust distribution: Testing bottom-up and top-down control. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 296: 106931. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2020.106931
  12. Simpson SJ, Raubenheimer D (2012) The nature of nutrition: a unifying framework from animal adaptation to human obesity. Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 220 pp. Available from: https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/lib/asulib-ebooks/reader.action?docID=902773
  13. Clissold FJ, Sanson GD, Read J (2006) The paradoxical effects of nutrient ratios and supply rates on an outbreaking insect herbivore, the Australian plague locust. Journal of Animal Ecology 75: 1000–1013. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2656.2006.01122.x
  14. Wang B, Deveson ED, Waters C, Spessa A, Lawton D, Feng P, Liu DL (2019) Future climate change likely to reduce the Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera) seasonal outbreaks. Science of The Total Environment 668: 947–957. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.02.439
  15. Word Ries M, Adriaansen C, Aldobai S, Berry K, Bal AB, Catenaccio MC, Cigliano MM, Cullen DA, Deveson T, Diongue A, Foquet B, Hadrich J, Hunter D, Johnson DL, Pablo Karnatz J, Lange CE, Lawton D, Lazar M, Latchininsky AV, Lecoq M, Le Gall M, Lockwood J, Manneh B, Overson R, Peterson BF, Piou C, Poot-Pech MA, Robinson BE, Rogers SM, Song H, Springate S, Therville C, Trumper E, Waters C, Woller DA, Youngblood JP, Zhang L, Cease A (2024) Global perspectives and transdisciplinary opportunities for locust and grasshopper pest management and research. Journal of Orthoptera Research 33(2): 169–216. doi:10.3897/jor.33.112803.
  16. Symmons PM, Wright DE (1981) The origins and course of the 1979 plague of the Australian Plague Locust, Chortoicetes-terminifera (Walker) (Orthopera, Acrididae), including the effect of chemical control. Acrida 10: 159–190.
  17. Wright DE (1986) Economic assessment of actual and potential damage to crops caused by the 1984 locust plague in south-eastern Australia. Journal of Environmental Management. 23: 293-308.
  18. Wright DE (1987) Analysis of the development of major plagues of the Australian plague locust Chortoicetes terminifera (Walker) using a simulation model. Australian Journal of Ecology. 12: 4 423-437. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1442-9993.1987.tb00959.x
  19. Deveson ED (2013) Satellite normalized difference vegetation index data used in managing Australian plague locusts. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing 7: 075096. https://doi.org/10.1117/1.JRS.7.075096
  20. Deveson ED (2012) Naturae amator and the grasshopper infestations of South Australia’s early years. Transactions of the Royal Society South Australia 136: 1–15. doi: 10.1080/03721426.2012.10887158
  21. 21.0 21.1 Le Gall M, Overson R, Cease A (2019) A Global Review on Locusts (Orthoptera: Acrididae) and Their Interactions With Livestock Grazing Practices. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7: 263. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2019.00263
  22. Hunter DM (2004) Advances in the control of locusts (Orthoptera: Acrididae) in eastern Australia: from crop protection to preventive control. Australian Journal of Entomology 43: 293–303. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1326-6756.2004.00433.x
  23. 23.0 23.1 Deveson ED (2011) The search for a solution to Australian locust outbreaks: how developments in ecology and government responses influenced scientific research. Historical Records of Australian Science 22: 1. https://doi.org/10.1071/HR11003