Migrating locusts can detect polarized reflections to avoid flying over the sea

N. Shashar*, S. Sabbah, N. Aharoni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


The desert locust Schistocerca gregaria is a well known migrating insect, travelling long distances in swarms containing millions of individuals. During November 2004, such a locust swarm reached the northern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, coming from the Sinai desert towards the southeast. Upon reaching the coast, they avoided flying over the water, and instead flew north along the coast. Only after passing the tip of the gulf did they turn east again. Experiments with tethered locusts showed that they avoided flying over a light-reflecting mirror, and when given a choice of a non-polarizing reflecting surface and a surface that reflected linearly polarized light, they preferred to fly over the former. Our results suggest that locusts can detect the polarized reflections of bodies of water and avoid crossing them; at least when flying at low altitudes, they can therefore avoid flying over these dangerous areas.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)472-475
Number of pages4
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - 22 Dec 2005


  • Desert locust
  • Navigation
  • Pest control
  • Polarization vision
  • Water avoidance


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