About: Locusts

About: Locusts

  • Locusts are a group of short-horned grasshoppers, that are about the length of 6-8 centimeters.
  • According to the FAO, eggs can hatch in about two weeks, with locusts maturing to adulthood in two to four months on average.
  • They multiply in numbers as they migrate long distances in destructive swarms (up to 150 km in one day), which can contain as many as 80 million locusts per square kilometer. Swarms can vary from less than 1 square kilometer in size to several hundred square kilometers.
  • Four species of locusts are found in India:
    • Desert locust (Schistocercagregaria)
    • Migratory locust (Locustamigratoria)
    • Bombay Locust (Nomadacrissuccincta)
    • Tree locust (Anacridium sp.)

Desert Locusts:

  • The desert locust does not cause any harm while it moves about independently.
  • These winged insects differ from normal hoppers, and become dangerous only when their populations build up rapidly and the close physical contact in crowded conditions triggers behavioural changes.
  • They, then, enter the “gregarious phase”, by grouping into bands and forming swarms that can travel great distances (up to 150 km daily), while eating up every bit of vegetation on the way.
  • One locust can consume its own weight in food each day.
  • The swarms devour leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, bark and also destroy plants by their sheer weight as they descend on them in massive numbers.
  • As per some estimate, a small swarm of the desert locusts eats on average as much food in one day as about 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2500 people.
  • Threaten food security:
    • The Desert Locust is regarded as the most destructive pest in India as well as internationally.
    • If not controlled at the right time, these insect swarms can threaten the food security of countries.

Hurt India recently:

  • During late 2019 and early 2020, locusts have caused great damage to the growing rabi crops along western Rajasthan and parts of northern Gujarat.

Hurting Africa this year:

  • Desert Locusts, the destructive migratory pests, are currently devouring acres of maize, sorghum and wheat crops in East Africa.
  • Kenya is already reporting its worst locust outbreak in 70 years, while Ethiopia and Somalia haven’t seen one this bad in quarter of a century.

Background:

  • It is common to see locusts in India, but normally only during July-October and mostly as solitary insects or in small isolated groups.
  • But this year, the desert locusts appeared along the India-Pakistan border before mid-April.
  • The crop-eating pests had first entered Rajasthan from Pakistan in the second week of April.

News Summary:

  • After Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the swarm of desert locusts has reached the state of Uttar Pradesh.
  • In Uttar Pradesh, locusts are feared to affect 17 districts.
  • It is highly concerning as a big swarm of locusts can eat acres of crop within an hour.

Measures to counter them:

  • To deal with the situation, Uttar Pradesh’s agriculture department has launched a massive drive to educate farmers on how to keep the locust menace at a bay.
  • In Agra, the district administration has deployed 204 tractors mounted with chemical sprays.
  • Drone usage permitted:
    • The aviation ministry has permitted state government entities to use drones for anti-locust operations.
    • Battery-operated rotary-wing drones will be used for aerial surveillance, photography, public announcements and/or aerial spraying of anti-locust pesticides.

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