Luki is a young locust. He’s a crackly, wackly locust. Luki is a very kind locust. He’s also very good in his own company. That means he is happy spending time alone. He likes doing his own thing and doesn’t feel the need to follow the crowd. Because of this, Lucki is green in colour. (When young locusts – called nymphs – get together in swarms, they tend to be yellowy orange with black spots.)
Luki lives in the desert in Africa. During the hot days, he rests and sleeps. Then at night, when it is cooler, he loves flying around the desert. He spends his time looking for food, which isn’t too hard to find as locusts can eat so many things. They can eat leaves, shoots, flowers, fruit, seeds, stems and even tree bark. Locusts are definitely not fussy eaters!
One night, as Luki is sitting eating part of a plant shoot he has found pushing up through the sand, he sees a big group of locusts flying towards him. They all look a bit different to Lucki because of their magical colour change when they’re being sociable. The locusts see Lucki and land beside him. When they do, Lucki sees that one of them is his friend Lumo.
“Hey Lucki!” says Lumo. “Good to see you. What have you been up to?”
“Hi Lumo,” replies Lucki. “I’ve just been hanging out here in the desert. You know how it is. Quiet. I kind of like it that way. What’s been happening with you?”
Lumo smiles and starts to fly around in a little circle.
“I’m on my way with these guys to join a huge swarm of locusts heading to the other side of Africa.”
“That’s really far away!” says Luki.
“I know,” agrees Lumo. “But it will be worth it. There’s been so much rain over there, they say it’s helped the farmers’ crops grow really fast. There are plants everywhere. There’s enough for us to eat our own body weight in vegetation every day!”
Luki listens to Lumo and pictures in his mind how much vegetation it would take to make up his own body weight. That’s a lot of food!
“It sounds like fun, but don’t you all bump into each other a lot?” Luki asks. He imagines all the locusts flying very close together through the air.
“Yes, we do. It can get a bit irritating at times.”
“Don’t you sometimes want your own space?”
“Yes,” admits Lumo. “Sometimes it feels too busy when I’m surrounded by other locusts.”
“I’m not sure it would suit me,” says Luki.
“And there’s also a problem.” Lumo confesses.
“What’s that?” asks Luki, intrigued.
“Well, humans don’t like us eating all their crops. They call us a pest and say we cause infestation, which leads to famine. So they try to stop us.”
“That doesn’t sound good,” admits Luki. “But they probably need their crops to feed themselves.”
“True,” agrees Lumo, who hadn’t really thought about things this way.
“How do they try and stop you?” asks Luki, concerned.
“They spray insecticides, which are liquids to try to keep us away from their crops. It can get a bit dangerous for us if we can’t avoid them.”
Luki doesn’t like to think of his friend being at risk. He wonders if there is something he can do to help. As he starts to think, he rubs his back legs together, as locusts do. Sometimes this helps him to think better.
Luki thinks about the food he eats every day, which always seems to be just the right amount. He doesn’t have to be around lots of other locusts to eat it. And he certainly doesn’t feel like he’s in danger. And just like that, he has an idea.
“Why are you all doing the same thing, at the same time?” asks Luki. “Don’t you want to be your own locust and be different from the rest?”
Lumo hasn’t ever thought about whether he wants to be an individual before. He’s been so used to getting swept up in the swarm whenever they fly off to a new location.
“Why don’t you all stay here and spread yourself around a large area of the desert? Each of you will have more space and there’ll be enough for you all to eat. Plus you won’t be in any danger!”
Lumo starts to rubs his back legs against his wings, to show that he’s excited.
“That’s a great idea!” he says.
“Why don’t you see what your friends think?” suggests Luki.
Lumo nods and turns around. He jumps back over to the big group of locusts and Luki can see him speaking to them. Very soon, he jumps back over in Luki’s direction.
“They think your idea is fantastic,” explains Lumo. “We’re staying right here in the desert!”
“Fabulous!” says Luki. “There’s so much space. You can all explore the area and find a patch for yourself. Then you can get to work enjoying all the food that’s on offer right here!”
“Thanks Luki,” says Lumo. “I think that’s going to be much better for us.”
Before long, the locusts have all found themselves a spot to call their own. During the day, they often rest under the shade of plants, away from the hot desert sun. And at night-time, they come out to feed… rubbing their back legs against each other or against their wings as they jump and fly. They make a special sound that can be heard for miles around…CRACKLE-CRACKLE-CRACKLE!
Luki is delighted that his idea is keeping his friend and the other locusts safe. He’s pretty sure it’s helping the farmers and their crops on the other side of Africa too!
Questions for discussion
Apart from locusts, what other insects, animals and birds are thought of as pests?
What problems can pest infestation cause?
Are the locusts in the story being pests on purpose?
How does their behaviour change when Luki gives them some new ideas to think about?
Why is it helpful to find out about different perspectives and opinions on a problem?
Copyright © 2020 Claire Culliford