Special Report

The Most Devastating Plagues in US History Caused by Insects

Hundreds of billions of locusts are currently ravaging several countries in East Africa and South Asia, causing devastating damage to crops both in the field and in storage. Swarms the size of cities are sweeping over farmland, and the numbers are projected to increase 500-fold by June if left unchecked.

Insect plagues have been documented throughout human history, causing famine and widespread hunger. 24/7 Tempo compiled 20 of the most devastating insect plagues in U.S. history, including not only incidents of ravenous swarms but also the less visible, equally insidious insects that have preyed on woodlands, fruit trees, and even livestock — many of which are classified as invasive species. 

We concentrated on native and invasive insects with reported rapid population growth in the United States. All of these insects have caused the destruction of property, agriculture, or native flora and fauna. In some cases, the population surge slowed and the insects are no longer causing serious destruction. In other cases, the damage is ongoing.

Human actions can be traced to many of these plagues, whether by importing invasive species in fruit shipments, being careless about firewood transport, or causing the climate crisis. Climate crisis is also going to permanently change how these 22 crops are grown.

Click here to see the most devastating insect plagues in U.S. history