Locust Pied Piper of Hamelin


when solitary grasshoppers get very crowded their body produces the chemical serotonin and they start to act like locust: fly in huge swarms and eat everything in their path.

there are two ways to fight them today: chemical and biological. the chemical is poisoning them and this costs a lot and hurts the environment. the biological is infecting them with fungus but it takes days to kill the locusts. in the phrase of "carrot or stick", all the current and problematic solutions attack the locust with the stick. my solution is tempting them with the carrot.


then i read an article in the website of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), about "Biological control of locusts - New weapons for old enemies"

when the locusts are young they are called hoppers. they don't have wings yet, so they walk on the ground. they also make swarms and eat crops, but a research team has identified and synthesized a specific locust pheromone, or chemical signal, that can be used against young locusts with devastating effect.

This chemical called Phenylacetonitrile (PAN) is used by adult male locust when they mate to deter other adult locust males. but when this chemical is sprayed on the young hoppers, it stops hopper bands dead in their tracks and make them break ranks. PAN caused the young hoppers to resume solitary behavior. confused and disoriented, some lost their appetite altogether, while others turned cannibal and ate one other. any survivors were easy prey for predators.

so this of course has the problem that you have to locate them when they're young, but this gave me the idea that the locusts are affected mainly by chemicals or smell. The paper talks about a satellite of the French Space Agency that might be able to track them early on, but i invented a solution that doesn't need this.


i'm sure you heard of the drug ecstasy or in its real name MDMA

the effects are similar on people, they like to be in big groups called rave or dance parties and it's a stimulant that lets them dance for hours like the insects can fly for hours.

you can see in the pictures here how MDMA binds to serotonin transporters, which means the MDMA tie down and interrupts the work of the part of out body that takes away the serotonin, so the result is that the serotonin stays in the receptor all the time because of the MDMA.

So if we take MDMA and spray it in front of the flying locust swarm, this is like spraying a very nice scent that they want to follow. we need to affect the leaders and the rest will follow them.

we know that insects can get addicted to drugs too, so their neurotransmitters work in a similar way.

if it turns out that the MDMA is not tempting enough we can tempt them with smell of food or sex (female locust hormones) or supposing they follow the other locusts by smell then we can use for the leaders dust of grounded locusts and this would turn the leaders into followers. i'm sorry i know it's disgusting but we are preventing many human deaths here.


so we spray a continuous or periodic stream of the chemical ahead of the swarm. this can be achieved with drones that are deployed from an airplane, and when their electricity or their stock of chemical is depleted (whichever comes first) the drones return to the airplane to recharge and fill up with fresh stock. the airplane itself when its fuel or supply is running low can signal the next airplane to come and take its place. the cost of the damage of the swarm of locust is much more than two airplanes and a few drones.

in the case that the locust need also a visual stimulus or guidance from the Sun's position, we can make a plastic model of the insect on each drone, but like plants already discovered for example "bee orchids"

insects can be fooled by smell which again means putting the right chemicals in the air.

if we want to fool the insects about the position of the sun it is also not very hard, they don't fly at night, and for them the Sun is simply the brightest thing that they see. so we can keep a reflection of the sun using larger mirrors again carried by drones, in some distance from the swarm, and we can fool the leaders of the swarm to follow our fake Sun which will be brighter than the actual Sun because it's closer to the swarm than the actual Sun so it looks bigger to them. just like insects are attracted to artificial light at night, they are hardwired to navigate by the moon, and try to keep a constant angle to this new artificial moon, and so they get closer and closer in circle to the lamp. so again insects are easy to manipulate with external stimulus.


at first i thought it's enough to lead the locust into the sea and they will drown there or get tired and eaten by fish. but it's not so simple, here is what the FAO article tells us:

During the 1988 desert locust plague, swarms crossed the Atlantic from Mauritania to the Caribbean, flying 5000 kilometers in 10 days.
Scientists were stumped because migrating swarms normally come down to rest every night. But locusts can’t swim, so how could it be?
It turned out that the swarms were coming down at sea – on any ships they could find, but also in the water itself.
The first ones in all drowned but their corpses made rafts for the other ones to rest on.

amazing! but anyway the method we talked about can take them in circles for weeks if needed until they run out of energy and cannibalize each other and when this resource is gone too then they all die.