The European Physical Journal Special Topics

, Volume 157, Issue 1, pp 93–109 | Cite as

A model for rolling swarms of locusts



We construct an individual-based kinematic model of rolling migratory locust swarms. The model incorporates social interactions, gravity, wind, and the effect of the impenetrable boundary formed by the ground. We study the model using numerical simulations and tools from statistical mechanics, namely the notion of H-stability. For a free-space swarm (no wind and gravity), as the number of locusts increases, the group approaches a crystalline lattice of fixed density if it is H-stable, and in contrast becomes ever denser if it is catastrophic. Numerical simulations suggest that whether or not a swarm rolls depends on the statistical mechanical properties of the corresponding free-space swarm. For a swarm that is H-stable in free space, gravity causes the group to land and form a crystalline lattice. Wind, in turn, smears the swarm out along the ground until all individuals are stationary. In contrast, for a swarm that is catastrophic in free space, gravity causes the group to land and form a bubble-like shape. In the presence of wind, the swarm migrates with a rolling motion similar to natural locust swarms. The rolling structure is similar to that observed by biologists, and includes a takeoff zone, a landing zone, and a stationary zone where grounded locusts can rest and feed.


European Physical Journal Special Topic Active Motion Topaz Rolling Motion Short Range Repulsion 
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Copyright information

© EDP Sciences/Società Italiana di Fisica/Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. M. Topaz
    • 1
  • A. J. Bernoff
    • 2
  • S. Logan
    • 3
  • W. Toolson
    • 2
  1. 1.Macalester College, Dept. of Mathematics and Computer ScienceSt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.Harvey Mudd College, Dept. of MathematicsClaremontUSA
  3. 3.Harvey Mudd College, Dept. of EngineeringClaremontUSA

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