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Locust Plague Blocked out the Sun in 1874

By By Meghan Evans, Meteorologist
July 20, 2010, 2:38:06 AM EDT

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A locust plague that occurred across the Plains during the summer of 1874 not only caused catastrophic crop damage but also blocked out the sun.

The Rocky Mountain locust was a longtime pest in the Midwest until the end of the 19th century, and it grew to be a major concern beginning late in July of 1874. It was the largest recorded swarm of this insect with estimates of up to 124 billion insects.

The swarm of locusts spanned an area 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide, stretching from the Canadian Prairies and the Dakotas southward to Texas.

Some accounts claim that the locusts devastated some farms in a matter of minutes. These accounts also claimed that the swarm was so dense that it actually blocked out the sun.

The crop damages the summer of 1874 totaled about $200 million.

It was likely that this swarm descended on the Plains in such large numbers that summer due to very hot and dry conditions.

These insects thrived in drought conditions because of the tendency for prairie plants to concentrate sugars in their stalks during droughts, thus supplying locusts with plenty of food.

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