Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Locust an insect which is proverbial for the ruthless manner in which it can devour crops, descending on and denuding huge tracts of agricultural land, but which is itself welcome food for human beings in many parts of Africa. The principal species, Schistocerca gregaria, known as the desert locust (in French, criquet pèlerin), ranges all over the continent, reproduces ten or more times a year, and may be encountered in flights of several billion individuals. The two contrasting aspects of the locust, by which people can ‘enjoy not only the agreeable flavour of the dish, but also take a pleasant revenge of the ravagers of their fields’ (Barth, 1857), are neatly expressed in the song attributed by Pringle (1851) to‘the wild Bushman’ of Australia:

Yea, even the wasting locust-swarm

Which mighty nations dread,

To me nor terror brings nor harm;

I made of them my bread.