A film crew working for the History Channel interviewed University of Wyoming College of Agriculture locust and grasshopper experts May 10 for a documentary entitled “The Perfect Swarm.”
Interviewed were Alex Latchininsky, UW Cooperative Extension Service entomologist, and Jeff Lockwood, former professor in the Department of Renewable Resources in the College of Agriculture and now in the Department of Philosophy.
The documentary should air this fall, said Andy Papadopoulos of the Creative Differences television production company in Studio City, Calif. With Papadopoulos was Scott Ogle, director of photography, and Chas Gordon, audio technician. The segment will be part of ongoing Mega Disasters series on the channel.
“This is an unusual subject,” said Papadopoulos. “It taps into primordial fears. Locusts themselves have a rich, deep history.”
The crew asked Latchininsky, a professor in the renewable resources department, his expert opinion regarding locust biology and ecology. They also discussed conditions conducive to locust outbreaks in Africa and elsewhere and the modern methods of locust monitoring and management, including the use of satellite imagery.
“They also asked about the grasshopper situation in the United States and the economic importance of the pests in Wyoming and the West,” said Latchininsky.
The crew filmed UW locust and grasshopper collections and exhibits. Live gray bird grasshoppers, Schistocerca nitens, from Hawaii were displayed. The species in 2004 began devouring vegetation on the small Hawaiian island of Nihoa. Latchininsky was the grasshopper expert invited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to spend 11 days on the island last year to lend expertise to possible control efforts. The insect is a distant “cousin” of the infamous Desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria, of the Old World, said Latchininsky.
The crew later filmed Latchininsky and Lockwood collecting grasshopper samples west of Laramie.
The National Geographic Explorer Channel presented “The Perfect Swarm” in 2005, which featured Lockwood’s work to discover why the Rocky Mountain Locust became extinct. The subject matter is somewhat different; only the title is the same, said Latchininsky.
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