The historical account of the rise and fall of Nosema locustae as a biological control agent of grasshoppers has substantial implications for the successful development and implementation of biological control of migratory locusts in Africa. The potential of N. locustae was ultimately not sufficient to overcome a set of impediments, including: efficacy (the rate and extent of mortality were relatively low), target specificity (not all pest species were susceptible), formulation (wheat bran bait excluded feeding by some pests), cost (the price of the formulated product was excessive), storage (the organism lacked long-term stability), complex application (the pathogen and its carrier had to be applied during a narrow set of environmental and logistical parameters) and production (the use of an in vivo production system made high-volume production difficult). Some of the most significant limitations that led to the failure of N. locustae have been overcome by work on other pathogens, including the problems of formulation, storage, efficacy and production. However, at least four relevant lessons can be derived from the N. locustae story and applied to ongoing work with biological control of migratory locusts. First, the erratic population dynamics of acridids necessitates that the production, storage and distribution of an augmentative biological control agent will be driven by a boom-and-bust cycle. Second, the immense spatial scale and low unit value of the resources (rangelands) being protected create a unique set of logistical challenges. Third, the control of acridids involves the management of a native insect pest embedded within complex, native ecosystems, which suggests that our interventions should be undertaken with a great deal of caution, monitoring and, ultimately, humility. Fourth, although pathogens can be used as ‘bio-insecticides’, biological control requires education of end-users regarding a more sophisticated approach to pest management.