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Ravaging Locusts Swarm At Random

When a swarm of locusts hits, it devastates everything in its path. It would be helpful to know when they are coming... but scientists say no such luck.

locust_swarm

Photo: [nivs] (flickr)

This swarm of locusts makes its way across Eilat, Isreal.

When a swarm of locusts hits, it hits hard, devastating everything in its path. Of course, it would be helpful to know when they are coming!

No such luck. Biologists understand basic locust behavior, but to in order to predict where they will travel, they called on mathematicians for help. The goal was to understand the dynamics that influence where a swarm will go so that their behavior can be predicted.

To understand this swarm behavior on a smaller scale, scientists contained a group of locusts in a small arena, 80 cm in diameter. In a short time, the locust begin to collect and move as a group.

Scientists say that the group makes its decision on where to go based on many factors. This makes it almost impossible to predict their behavior mathematically. However, the closer they get to the solution, the easier it will be for farmers to protect their crops!

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Molly Plunkett

is a journalism student at Indiana University and an online producer for A Moment of Science. She is originally from Wheaton, IL.

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