Zoology in Focus: The Locust Lab – By Kaela Sanborn

Flight: By placing a live locust in a clamp in front of a wind tunnel, we were able to observe it in flight. Using a strobe light, we were able to create a “slow-motion effect” that let us closely observe how the locust moved it’s wings. Locusts have two pairs of wings on their mesothoracic and metathoracic body segments. The hindwings are the larger wings, and control 70% of the lift. The forewings are more rigid and are used for steering. Locusts beat their wings at an average frequency of twenty three Hertz. Ten muscles control each wing, and some of those muscles are actually bifunctional as they are also used in the legs while walking.

Anatomy: After observing a locust in flight, we then dissected a different dead locust in order to get a closer look at it. Locusts have antennae at the front of their heads, used to touch or smell objects around them. They also have eyes that provide them with a wide field of vision. It is not yet known what colors a locust can and can not see. There are also small, short hairs on the face, which are used to detect wind. This way, the locust can always land and take off facing the wind. On the thorax, there is a little protective sheath that covers the front and sides, known as the pronotum. The ears of a locust are actually located on its abdomen. Along the thorax and abdomen of a locust, there are little holes known as spiracles. They are a part of the respiratory system. The largest spiracle is located above the middle pair of legs, and can be observed opening and closing on a live locust. Inside, a locust does not have lungs. Instead, there are several small silvery tubes known as the tracheal system, which carry oxygen from the spiracles to the brain and other important organs. The dark tube that runs from the mouth to the anus is the gut. The beginning of the gut is used to grind and store food. The middle section is where digestion occurs. The final third of the gut is where water is added, before being turned into waste and excreted out of the anus.