African locust outbreak (it's real and it's normal)

Is the locust outbreak in Aftrica really “biblical” and “the worst”?

Lately, there have been the “headlines of doom” concerning the locust plague in Africa.  The melodrama in the headlines is enough to make a rational, thinking person scream:

Africa locust plague worst infestation in decades: ‘Even cows are wondering what is happening’
FoxNews Jan 28, 2020

Why today's biblical locust swarms can't be stopped  
Mashable Jan 2020

It is probably true that this is one of the worst infestation in decades, if you count two as “decades” which is technically correct.  However, it implies a much longer time, which is highly dishonest.  How common are locust plagues?

SunSentinal July 1986

Argentina Is Preparing For The Worst Locust Swarm In 60 Years
ATI February 5, 2018

Famine-ravaged Ethiopia invaded by locust swarm  
June 6, 1978 NYT

In Africa, when it rains, it swarms
CSM October 14, 2004

Just a quick search for locusts plagues on the internet yielded four headlines from 1978 to 2018 on two different continents.  Australia has also seen plagues of locust.  That’s not really looking rare or out of the ordinary.  The headlines are for melodrama and to frighten people.

Maybe this invasion is bigger and badder?

“Swarms of Desert Locust have been recorded somewhere or other in every year since 1860 (Rainey 1963); however, the longest plague period lasted from 1950-1962, and during this period the largest swarm was recorded. Rainey (1954) calculated that of a well-packed swarm observed in East Africa contained 50 million locusts per km2. At such rates, a swarm of 100km2 could contain over 5×109 locusts, but not all would be flying at once. Often some will settle while others take off, so that the swarm, however uniform it looks at any moment, is really progressing in a rolling motion with one part constantly replacing the other in the air as the whole body of the swarm moves forward (Baron 1972).”

Book of insect records university of Florida

“Now consider that in the last century alone, there were seven periods of numerous plagues, the longest of which lasted intermittently for 13 years.”

Looks pretty bad for those 12 and 13 years.  Much more serious than the “historic plagues” headlined above.  Seems it’s not the biggest, baddest of all.  Just a “typical” plague.  This is not to diminish the reality of the damage these plagues do, but in reality, they are quite common.  Dealing with them is a way of life, even if it’s a rather unsuccessful one at times.  It’s part of the natural world.    

The locust invasions occur in South America, Africa, Australia, Europe, China—everywhere except North America and Antarctica.  There are varying ways to deal with these pests.  They are edible and considering the damage they do to crops, methods of drying and freeze-drying of the insects can be quite useful for later consumption.  While many people have an aversion to eating insects, when confronted with reduced food supplies and crop-gobbling locusts, that aversion can be overcome.  There are various ways to prepare the locust—dried, fried, chocolate-covered, breaded.  One can often make flour out of dried insects.  This will not remove large quantities of locust, but may help with famine later on.  Pesticides also work, but are limited in their value due to the huge number of locusts.  One must kill the locust without poisoning everything else in the area.  

The invasions one reads about are mostly desert locust.  It is interesting to note that in the 1800’s, North America did have swarms of locust—the Rocky Mountain locust, now extinct.  There is considerable in what caused the mass extinctions.  This happened very quickly, going from swarms of locust to extinction in approximately 30 years.  Further study is warranted on what happened and if the situation can be created artificially, thus ridding many areas of locust plagues. 

(There are still grasshoppers in North America and many other places.  Locust are a special type of grasshopper and they form swarms.  Grasshoppers generally live on the ground, flying only when moving from one plant or area to another.)

Wyoming grasshoppers in an "up" year 
They don't swarm, but they are annoying

The abject misnaming of ocean acidification:

I have been reading headlines about ocean acidification being so strong it is corroding the shells of crab larvae. 

This is what science denial looks like.   We have the discussed the ocean issue—scientifically referred to as ‘LESS ALKALINE” never acidic.  The pH scale above 7 is ALKALI.  The ocean runs about 8.3.  Therefore, calling the phenomena acidic is denial of actual established science.  Repeat that to yourselves often.  Scientists do misrepresent facts and terms when money is involved, the press lies as a matter of standard practice.  One should run run run from any source that uses this completely inaccurate term “acidic” to try and scare people into believing warming is harming the planet.  It is pure propaganda.  Science has been severely damaged by the complete dishonesty and denial of basic science that results from the need to push the AGW fake science.  One should be very concerned about the effect the political and monetary groups are having on science.  At this point, it’s not really trustworthy in many areas, which makes us regressing to the stone age shamans and seers.  He who is flashy enough or loud enough or tells the best tale wins.  We all lose.  

How does this happen—the lie of acidification and scientists pushing it?  It sells as a headline.  Sadly, people love doom and gloom and rarely try to learn the truth and the real science.  There were only 50 specimens from 10 environments in the actual study.  The lowest pH used in the water tanks was 7.48 still alkali, approaching a neutral solution.  There were other serious problems within the study quoted:  in situ, meaning done in the lab, so the crab larvae cannot move about freely as crabs do in the ocean.  Crabs move through many pH levels so confining them to one level immediately negates the usefulness of the data.  If researchers must use tanks, the pH should vary over the life of the experiment, which may not yield the desired answers.

The researchers were measuring tiny changes and failing to allow the crabs to mature (because they dissected the larvae).  There really is no way to know if the changes at the larval stage carry to adulthood.  The most interesting item, however, the scientists dissolved the layer of shell (carapace epicuticle) they needed removed to examine a layer beneath it (that layer is what they were gauging damage by) using 6% sodium hypochlorite, which is basically bleach and has a pH of around 11.  Yes, 11, making it very alkali, NOT acidic, and it dissolved the carapace.  It seems interesting that there is a claim that a less alkali ocean will harm shells when MORE alkali does indeed dissolve them and the researchers clearly showed this.

Why do scientists say the acidic ocean is harming the crabs?  Because saying the ocean water is becoming more neutral, which is the scientifically accurate state, not a falsehood like the term “acidic” is, and may be harming crabs just does not sell like “ACIDIC OCEAN DISSOLVING CRAB SHELLS” does.  The scientific illiteracy of people reading the headlines and the desire for a doomsday scenario makes the use of the word “acidic” very effective.  Totally unscientific, but very effective in frightening the public.

Remember that the ocean pH varies from place to place, creatures move freely in the ocean (except coral) and that changes in shells and habitats are 100% natural and have always occurred.  Humans do affect the ocean through fishing, using it as trash dumpster, crossing it in ships, etc, but since humans are part of the ecology such affects are not different from what any other species on the planet cause as changes.  Humans are just aware of the changes and have the capacity to exploit those changes for selfish and often very wrong reasons.  

See these past posts for more on ocean pH changes:

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