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Italian Locust

Calliptamus italicus (Linnaeus 1758)

Systematic position: Class Insecta, order Orthoptera, sub-order Caeliferae, family Acrididae, sub-family Catantopinae, genus Calliptamus

Synonyms: Gryllus Locusta italicus (Linnaeus 1758); C. afghanus Ramme 1952

Identification: Stocky medium-sized acridid. Hind femur usually dull red or mauve and inner femoral with distinct black spots

Biological group: Polyphagous insect pests

 

Distribution

The distribution area of the Italian Locust stretches from Western Europe to the meadow-steppes of Central Asia in Siberia and in Kazakhstan and neighbouring countries; it includes countries located along the northern and eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, Central Europe and Central Asia up to Mongolia and western Siberia. In the northern part of its distribution area, the populations are usually low. At its eastern limit, the species reaches the forest-steppe zone of Western Siberia. It is rather frequent in Iran and Afghanistan but does not reach their southern borders. In the western part of its distribution area the Italian Locust reaches the Atlantic coast only in France, south of latitude 46N; in the east, it reaches the Ob river (Russia).

Morphology

Imago body is medium-sized and stumpy. Body length varies from 14.5 to 28.7 mm (males) and from 21.9 to 41.6 mm (females). Elytra are well developed: length of 10.4-22.2 mm (males), 14.2-32.0 mm (females) with sparse veining. Hind wings are a little bit shorter than elytra and relatively narrow. Hind femora is thick and short, only 3.2-3.8 times longer than wide. Coloration can vary as follows: brownish-red, grey-brownish, brown, red; in some cases, light and whitish tones can dominate. Light longitudinal stripes (especially along lateral pronotal keels) and spots are often developed. Hind wings have generally a pink base. Hind femora has 1-3 blackish bands from above, red or pink from below, usually with 2 blackish incomplete transversal bands going on dorsal side. Hind tibia is red, reddish or pink, sometimes even whitish. Individuals of gregarious phase are somewhat larger and their elytra and wings are longer than the ones of individuals of solitary phase.

Biology

The Italian Locust is a univoltine species with egg diapause during autumn and winter. Females lay 1 to 4 egg pods (maximum of 150 eggs) at 5-10 mm depth in dry soils of sage-brush (Artemisia sp.) steppe and also in loose, dry soils. Such conditions characterize fallows and lands unploughed for 2-3 years, usually close to crops and thus resulting in serious threat for adjacent cropping areas. Egg pod is cylindrical, accurate, of 22-42 mm length and can contain from 20 to 50 eggs (usually 25-45), of 4-5 mm each in length. Number of egg pods varies greatly with seasonal weather conditions; there are far less in cool years. There are 5 hopper instars in the male and 6 in the female and development lasts 30-45 days. Hatching occurs from late April and laying from June to September according to the latitude. Adults die at the end of summer.

Ecology and behaviour

Dry steppes and semi-deserts with discontinuous sward are the optimum habitats for the Italian Locust. The traditional habitats are characterized by some preferred plants, drought-resistant dicotyledonous, such as wormwood and sage-brushes; egg laying places are found in almost bare sites, often sandy. Breeding areas have a sharp xerophytic nature with rather sparse vegetation; breeding grounds can be found in mountain valleys up to an altitude of 1,000 m. In the Central Asian oases, the Italian locust lives in field borders, fallows, waste lands, neglected orchards and Lucerne meadows, sometimes with saline soils; it is specially frequent in dry steppe zones. Italian Locust is also common in irrigated crops and is tolerant of a wide range of semi-arid soils and climate. It is generally considered as a lowland species but can be present up to 2,700 m a.s.l. The Italian locust is generally herbicolous and usually herbivorous but can also eat cereal grasses though avoiding wild ones. The Italian Locust has been studied as a pest particularly in Russia where first instar hoppers eat Artemisia austriaca, Achillea setacea and A. nobilis and also Salvia aethiops, S. nemorosa, Carduus spp., Onopordon acanthium, Convolvulus arvensis, Datura stramonium, Sisymbrium sophia and Verbascum spp.

Adults of Italian Locust are known to be subject to phase change in both morphometrics and behaviour, ranging from full solitary individuals to occasional or rather incomplete gregarious ones. The degree to which this occurs as well as fluctuations in population vary greatly with climatic and weather conditions. Hopper bands may form and move up to 155 m per day. They can disperse after fledging thus spreading out over large areas. They can also result in swarms which take off and fly away with the wind after a period of local flight. Small swarms can fly up to 20-40 km and larger ones up to more than 200 km.

In the western part of its distribution area, outbreaks occur during dry years. In the eastern part of its distribution area, the main outbreak areas are located in Kazakhstan and in the south of Western Siberia. The preference of the Italian Locust for wormwood sites is rather clear, mainly for first hopper instars; only 5th instar larvae and adults start to settle in other kinds of habitats.

Economic importance and useful plants attacked

Hoppers and adults can cause important damage on alfalfa, red and sugar-beet, many Solanaceae incl. potato and tobacco, cruciferous incl. cabbages, sunflower, Polygonaceae and medicinal cultures, cotton, flax, castor oil plant, walnut, water melon, vegetable, sesame, young plants of various fruit, mulberry, forest arboreal and bushy species, grapes, as well as pastures and hay lands. Cultivated Gramineae are also eaten; the Italian Locust can be a serious pest of wheat, millet and oat. Leaves are the main plant part eaten but grains, bark and fruits of bushes and trees are also eaten. Sowings of grain cereals are also appreciated.

Natural enemies

Birds (especially Pastor roseus L.) and lizards as well as a wide range of insects (beetles, dipterans), and the fungus Entomophthora grylli Fres. to which it is particularly susceptible.

Some related references

Bei-Bienko G.Ya. 1932. A manual of locust survey. Leningrad: Upravlenie Sluzhby ucheta Gos. OBV Narkozema SSSR. 159 pp. (In Russian)
Latchininsky A.V., Sergeev, M.G., Childebaev, M.K., Chernyakhovsky M.E., Lockwood J.A., Kambulin V.E., Gapparov F.A. 2002. Locusts of Kazakhstan, Central Asia and adjacent territories. Larami: Association for Applied Akridology International, University of Wyoming. 387 pp. (In Russian)
Mishchenko L.L. 1952. Locusts (Catantopinae). Fauna of the USSR. Orthopterous insects. Leningrad: AN SSSR. V. 4(2): 610. (In Russian)
Sergeev M.G. 1986. Regularities in distribution of orthopterous insects of Northern Asia. Novosibirsk: Nauka. 238 pp. (In Russian)
Uvarov B.P. 1977. Grasshopers and Locusts. A Handbook of General Acridology. V. 2. London: Centre for Overseas Pest Research, Cambridge University Press. 613 pp.

Documents

CIT- Distribution map