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Locusts' built-in 'surface analysis' ability directs them to fly overland

l as in the science news sections of the journals Science and Nature.

"In order to examine if the locusts are using polarized light in determining their flight path, we examined individual locusts' reactions in situations in which polarized and non-polarized light was reflected from various surfaces. We were able to prove that the locusts avoided flying over areas which were reflecting polarized light -- for example from mirrors or plastic surfaces."

The sea reflects polarized light much more than dry land (which reflects mainly diffused, non-polarized light), enabling a distinction to be made between the two. "When the locusts are presented with a situation of choice between surfaces reflecting either polarized or diffused light, they exercise their preference to fly over the (dry land) area of diffused light," said Dr. Shashar. This is a survival instinct, since if they flew over a body of water, the locusts would be deprived of both nourishment and a place to land and rest. This research, said Dr. Shashar, could be important in providing information that would be useful in developing means for "deceiving" the locusts and deterring them from flying over agricultural lands and causing the great damage that ensues.

One way of doing so might be through more extensive use of plastic sheeting as shields to create the reflection of the polarized light that the locusts avoid.


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Source:The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


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