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Locust: The Devastating Rise And Mysterious Disappearance Of The Insect That Shaped The American Frontier


Publisher:Basic Books



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About the book:

Imagine looking up to see an ominous black cloud on the horizon. Now imagine your growing horror as you watch that cloud reveal itself as an immense, miles-wide swarm of ravenous insects. In Locust, entomologist Jeffrey A. Lockwood reveals the bizarre history of a bug responsible for killing countless settlers on the American plains. First-hand accounts of the Rocky Mountain locust's horrific depredations are reproduced in the book, and Lockwood adds his own vivid reconstructions:

We expect grasshoppers and locusts to consume our gardens and fields, but when these insects begin to feed on fabric and flesh something seems demonically amiss.... Although the settlers may have been astonished by the locusts' voracity, they were appalled by the insects' fierce cannibalism.

Swarms of locusts would touch down like tornadoes on homesteads and farms, stripping away every growing thing and desperately eating other insects in search of much-needed fat and protein. These hordes were thought by many, including the Mormon settlers in Utah, to be divine punishments, or at least signs from above. After describing the effects this insect had on the American frontier, Lockwood delves into the entomologic mystery of the locusts' abrupt disappearance. Had they become extinct? Or gone into hiding in some ecological refuge? When Lockwood abandons history for science, his glee for his subject keeps the book moving, albeit slower than in the first few chapters. --Therese Littleton

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