While insects are not part of a Western diet, the Torah includes certain types of locusts among the “winged swarming things” that can be eaten (see Vayikra 11:20-25), offering both a description – those that “have jointed legs above their feet, wherewith to leap upon the earth” – and a list of names of the kosher species. The Mishnah (daf, or page 59a) elaborates on the description, requiring that kosher locusts must have four legs, four wings, leaping legs, and wings covering the greater part of the body; Rabbi Yose adds that they must bear the name hagav – locust.
On today’s daf, the Sages discuss the four specific names mentioned in the Torah as kosher species of locusts – arbeh, sol’am, hargol and hagav – and what the Torah is including when it adds that each of these is permitted “after its kind.” Thus we find a baraita teaching that the arbeh is the gobai, the sol’am is the vashon, the hargol is the nippol, and thehagav is the gadi’an.
Arbeh is a general term for many kinds of grasshoppers that travel in large swarms. Some Jewish communities have retained a tradition that identifies the Biblical arbeh with the Desert Locust – schistocerca gregaria – a very common insect found in Israel, Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Another possibility is the Migratory Locust – Locusta moratoria – or the Moroccan Locust – Dociostaurus marocanus – both of which were common in ancient times.
The meaning of the name vashon in Arabic means “with the long nose,” which, apparently, refers to a locust with an elongated head. A number of species match this description, like the truxalis and the acrida, which have long thin heads and high foreheads.
The name gadi’an (or, nadyan, as appears in some manuscripts) means “jumper,” which might mean to distinguish it from locusts that can fly for relatively long distances with the help of the wind. According to some researchers this may refer to the Calliptamus palaestinensis.