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Locust: The Devastating Rise and Mysterious Disappearance of the Insect that Shaped the American Frontier by Jeffrey A. Lockwood

Summary: In 1876, the U.S. Congress declared the locust “the single greatest impediment to the settlement of the country between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains.” Throughout the nineteenth century, swarms of locusts regularly swept across the American continent, turning noon into dusk, devastating farm communities, and bringing trains to a halt. The outbreaks subsided in the 1890s, and then, suddenly—and mysteriously—the Rocky Mountain locust vanished. A century later, entomologist Jeffrey Lockwood vowed to discover why. Locust is the story of how one insect shaped the history of the western United States. A compelling personal narrative drawing on historical accounts and modern science, this beautifully written book brings to life the cultural, economic, and political forces at work in America in the late nineteenth century, even as it solves one of the greatest extinction mysteries of our time.
Angies comments: This was a must read for me since I grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books. In one of the books, the family suffers a crop loss due to the locust, and I have always remembered, and marveled at, that description of the locusts.
The first part is about the impact the locust had on the communities and the history of the locust swarms. The second is more about the insect itself and Lockwood’s research into what happened to them.
The first part was slightly long, but still interesting to anyone who likes history. The second part was fascinating, especially the very end. I wasn’t sure if I was interested all that much in locusts besides Wilder’s book, but I enjoyed Locust. And if you think Locust is all about the locust, Lockwood argues that the lessons learned from the locust are very germane to the world today.

Recommended for biology, environmental, ecology, and American history readers.