Green Milkweed Locust infestation on an aloe clump, Rainbow Valley (East London)

The bright colours of the Green Milkweed Locust (illustrated below) serve as a warning of their poisonous potential.

The species illustrated, Phymateus leprosus, has been recorded having caused the death of a child after being eaten. Repugnant secretions are produced by glands which exudes from the thoracic joints.

Hundreds of these insects were noted in the garden of Rainbow Valley resident Claire Kockott yesterday. They were consuming the sap from a number of aloes (Aloe arborescens). It was interesting to note how localised the ‘swarm’ was and how quickly individuals moved across a plant in great numbers.

Females of the species have an almost telescopic abdomen with four, hard horny points which she slowly turns forcing it into the ground to lay her eggs. Up to 50 eggs are laid and then encased in a pod (created by a frothy fluid that is emitted to bind the soil particles together). A little soil is scraped on top of the hole after the egg laying has been completed.

These insects complete up to ten instars (the developmental stage of an insect between moults) before becoming adult and the colouration of the locusts seen yesterday indicates the last of the instars.

It would be interesting to note if any other records have been seen in and around East London. Claire Kockott is thanked for bringing this phenomena to the attention of the museum.

Reference: African Insect Life by S. H. Skaife

About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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