Are locust plagues caused by agriculture

Why are there so many locust plagues?

Due to the weather patterns within the last few years, several overwhelming locust plagues have occurred. Not only are the swarms of locusts unsettling and bothersome, but they threaten food security and the livelihoods of the people within the affected regions.

What are locusts and how will they affect agriculture?

Locusts are currently consuming almost all seedlings, which will slash agricultural yields. The new generation of locusts is expected to start hatching in May and form swarms by the end of June, which coincides with the expected harvest of crops planted during the rainy season.

How bad is the Locust crisis in Africa?

It is the most serious desert locust outbreak in 70 years. Locust outbreak could leave nearly 5 million people in Africa facing starvation. The crisis comes on top of food insecurity already exacerbated by COVID-19. A locust swarm can contain as many as 80 million adults. A swarm can consume the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

How much does it cost to stop a locust plague?

According to a paper published in the Journal of Orthoptera Research, it cost $450m to stop a desert locust plague that hit Africa between 2003 and 2005, causing $2.5bn of crop damage. The most effective way to combat a locust plague is for hundreds of specially trained operatives to spray the hordes with insecticide.

How do locust plagues start?

Locust plagues begin when widespread areas of inland Australia receive good rainfall. Rainfall is necessary for locust eggs to complete their development, it stimulates growth of grasses which are required as the food source for the developing locusts and it initiates breeding in the adult locusts.

What is causing the locust explosion?

Swarms of desert locusts have been recorded in the region for centuries, but unusual weather conditions generated strong cyclones and heavy rains in the Arabian Peninsula, triggered higher than normal vegetation growth that created ideal conditions for locusts to feed on and surge, scientists say.

Are locusts caused by climate change?

“It is fairly certain that climate change has contributed.” The locust plagues are linked to powerful recent cyclones in the fast-warming western Indian Ocean, with the heavy rains, strong winds and soaked land creating ideal conditions for desert locusts to breed and spread.

What causes grasshoppers to become locusts?

When food supplies are scarce, they interact with other solitary grasshoppers and turn into a locust – changing color from green to yellow and black. The locusts which are called ‘gregarious’ locusts form a swarm and attack crops.

Where do locusts come from?

Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, this species inhabits an area of about six million square miles, or 30 countries, during a quiet period. During a plague, when large swarms descend upon a region, however, these locusts can spread out across some 60 countries and cover a fifth of Earth’s land surface.

What crops do locusts eat?

Locust Swarms Currently, the American grasshopper damages agricultural crops, such as corn, cotton, oats and peanuts, citrus and dogwood trees, and many kinds of vegetables and grasses such as Bermuda grass and crabgrass.

Are locusts good for environment?

They feed on plants, converting plant material into protein (their bodies), enjoyed by many species. Their eggs, laid in burrows in the ground, are dug up by other insects and the nymphs (young ones) are caught by small birds and lizards. All in all, locusts have a great ecological role in the food chain.

What are the best breeding conditions for locusts?

For the Desert Locust, favourable conditions for breeding are (1) moist sandy or sand/clay soil to depths of 10-15 cm below the surface, (2) some bare areas for egg-laying, and (3) green vegetation for hopper development. Often favourable conditions may exist in the desert but there are no locusts present.

What is the relationship with locust and climate control?

Climate change is altering the dynamics of pest control and reproduction, said Keith Cressman, the FAO’s senior locust forecaster. Changes in climate have led to increases in cyclones, which feed locust swarms with water and warmth.

Can locusts turn back into grasshoppers?

1:096:09The Strange Thing That Turns Grasshoppers Into Locusts – YouTubeYouTubeStart of suggested clipEnd of suggested clipAnd stay away from each other they will grow up into grasshoppers. But if they are crowded.MoreAnd stay away from each other they will grow up into grasshoppers. But if they are crowded.

What is the purpose of locusts?

Studies have shown that locust grazing helps many plant species and can even lead to reduced fire risk on roadsides. Locusts provide food for wildlife, help to control weeds and benefit ecosystems in many other ways.

What is the difference between Grasshoppers and locusts?

Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers that become gregarious at higher population densities. Grasshoppers are plant-eaters that can only cover short distances. But, locusts can fly, covering vast distances. The main difference between locust and grasshopper is their behavior.

How much damage did the locust outbreak cause?

According to The World Bank, it caused an estimated $2.5 billion in crop damage. 2. The current locust outbreak formed after cyclones dumped considerable amounts of rain in the deserts of Oman, Yemen and the Horn of Africa.

What countries are experiencing locusts?

The locust outbreaks in Ethiopia and Somalia are the worst in 25 years and in Kenya the worst in 75 years. Coupled with the impact of COVID-19 and a return of flood season, the locust outbreak threatens to devastate the chances of survival for malnourished children.

How many locusts are there in the world?

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) a single swarm of desert locusts covering one square kilometer contains up to 80 million locusts. Even with a lifespan of only three months, under the right conditions, they can multiply up to twentyfold in just one generation, according to the FAO.

How long did the locust outbreak last?

Here are 10 important things to know about the locust outbreaks: 1. The last large locust outbreak lasted two years. In 2003, a large locust outbreak across 20 countries in Northern Africa lasted until 2005. Studies found that children who grew up during the period were much less likely to go to school, and girls were disproportionately affected. …

When will locusts resurgence?

The locust swarms are expected to continue to reproduce and spread through the end of 2020. The resurgence of swarms of desert locusts coupled with the impact of COVID-19 could lead to devastating circumstances.

Where is the desert locust outbreak?

The worst desert locust outbreak in a generation has been decimating crops and other vegetation across the Horn of Africa . Since January, Kenya Ethiopia, and Somalia have been battling to contain the escalating crisis as the outbreak moved southward towards South Sudan and eastward towards Uganda. In recent months, swarms have spread to …

When will locusts peak?

The locust swarms are expected to peak in July, as a wetter-than-normal monsoon arrives. Continued rains through October will only cause them to multiply at a faster rate. Save the Children’s teams on the ground are working to help affected communities and vulnerable children who are facing increasing health, education and safety risks due …

How to stop locust plague?

The most effective way to combat a locust plague is for hundreds of specially trained operatives to spray the hordes with insecticide. But even this military-style procedure isn’t enough to stop them completely.

What is the impact of locusts on Africa?

The true impact of locust swarms on Africa’s agriculture sector. Desert locusts have been wreaking havoc on humanity’s food supply since biblical times. Now, as East Africa combats its worst infestation in generations, experts are racing to better understand – and control – these insects. A member of the grasshopper family, …

Why do locusts change state?

It’s an important question because, before they enter their gregarious form, locusts are relatively harmless. Couzin, who has been studying the behaviour of locust swarms for years, has discovered it is an adaptive strategy that allows locusts to move out of areas where food has depleted. “If you put a human in the desert with limited landmarks and you track that human with GPS, they’ll walk around in circles,” said Couzin. “But with locusts, they all start marching in unison. Individually, they’re very error-prone, but together, they average out these errors. This means they move in a very directed way out of nutrient-poor areas.”

What to do when a locust swarm is formed?

As Cressman explained, the only real option is to carry out aerial operations and keep “hammering away” at them . “You’re not going to kill every single last locust – that’s not the objective,” he said.

What is the adaptive strategy of locusts?

Couzin, who has been studying the behaviour of locust swarms for years, has discovered it is an adaptive strategy that allows locusts to move out of areas where food has depleted. “If you put a human in the desert with limited landmarks and you track that human with GPS, they’ll walk around in circles,” said Couzin.

Why are locusts hard to control?

Upsurges in locust populations are hard to control as they depend largely on the weather. Over the past two years, Africa has been battered by an unusually high number of cyclones; abnormal rainfall like this allows vegetation to thrive, providing a food source for the locusts. These conditions are also ideal for reproduction as locust eggs are …

What is the name of the new biopesticide used to kill locusts?

A new microbial biopesticide called Green Muscle is a plant-friendly alternative to the insecticides currently used against locusts. Some have also suggested genetically modifying crops to make them less appealing to the insects, but Cressman is dubious of how effective this would be.

What is the locust plague?

Yet the locust plague is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the devastating effects of climate change on the region. The outbreak is symptomatic of a larger phenomenon: the African continent, its livelihood, its agriculture, and its ecosystems are extremely vulnerable to the looming effects of climate change.

Why are locusts gregarious?

In fact, the desert locust is one of the only grasshopper species that has a tendency to become gregarious. Because they live in dry environments, locusts take advantage of heavy rains to breed rapidly until the climate dries up again.

Why are locusts so fast?

Climate change appears to be the major culprit behind the locusts’ rapid rise. The risk of locust swarms increases as the region’s proximate oceans warm. Warm water causes the cyclones that create the conditions for a massive locust breeding season.

What is the threat of a famine caused by crop decimation?

The threat of a famine caused by crop decimation is looming and will likely be worsened by the economic instability resulting from the global coronavirus crisis. Second, independent of the health crisis, the plague is spreading during one of the worst times of the year: planting and rain season.

How long does it take for locusts to grow?

The May cyclone alone brought enough water for vegetation to grow for six months, which is enough time for two generations of locusts to develop.

How many times will the number of locusts increase by June?

Experts estimate that the number of locusts could increase 500 times by June, which could have catastrophic effects on the livelihood of African subsistence farmers and the entire region’s food supply. Desert locusts are voracious insects that feed primarily off of carbohydrates, such as grains.

When do locusts start hatching?

Locusts are currently consuming almost all seedlings, which will slash agricultural yields. The new generation of locusts is expected to start hatching in May and form swarms by the end of June, which coincides with the expected harvest of crops planted during the rainy season.

Key facts on Locusts

Locusts are the oldest migratory pest in the world. They differ from ordinary grasshoppers in their ability to change behaviour (gregarize) and form swarms that can migrate over large distances.

FAO actions

FAO operates a centralized Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS) within the Locust Group at FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy that monitors the Desert Locust situation throughout the world.

What is the Locust plague?

Locust, a small insect has the capacity to threaten agriculture produce when it is moving in a swarm . The famous 1986-89 plague caused because of these tiny insects in parts of Africa and South western parts of Asia stands as testimony to this. To combact these pests FAO has given high priority to a special programme, namely, Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES), based on their past experience to control these pests. The present article is a compilation of the general information about how experiments were designed by FAO to combact this menace, from the existing literatures available over the world wide web about these insects.

What are the two phases of locusts?

Locusts have two different states called phases: solitarious and gregarious . When locusts are present at low densities, the individuals are solitarious. As locust numbers increase, they cluster into dense groups and they become gregarious (see Fig. 2). The transition from the solitarious phase to the gregarious and vice versa is called the transient phase, and the locusts are referred to as transiens. If locusts are on the increase, they are referred to as congregans and, if they are on the decrease, they are called dissocians. Behavioural changes can take place rapidly. For example, Desert Locusts that have been reared in isolation in the laboratory try to avoid each other when first put into a cage, but in trying to avoid one locust they come into contact with another. Being touched by others, especially on the outer surfaces of the hind femora (thighs), results in locusts being attracted rather than repelled by others, and so they form groups. This switch from repulsion (the solitarious state) to attaction (the gregarious state) only takes an hour or so. If crowded insects become isolated they revert to behaving solitariously. The longer they are kept in a crowd before being isolated, the slower the reversion to the solitarious state. It may take several generations to complete the transition from gregarious to solitarious behaviour. Females can influence the phase of their offspring by adding a gregarizing chemical to the egg pod foam if they have recently experienced crowding, including at the oviposition site. In the field, it can take several generations before crowding occurs and solitary individuals behave fully gregariously. This is often seen during upsurges when bands and swarms become progressively larger and more cohesive. Morphological changes (changes in colour and shape) take more time. The full gregarious colour takes one crowded generation to develop and shape takes two or more. The differing rates of colour and shape change associated with phase changes often lead to confusion. For example, it is possible to find swarms of solitary (colour) locusts. In these guidelines, the terms gregarious and solitary (or solitarious) refer to behaviour, gregaricolour (and solitaricolour) are used to indicate coloration, and gregariform (and solitariform) indicate shape.

What is a locust?

“Locusts are members of the grasshopper family Acrididae, which includes most of the short-horned grasshoppers. Locusts differ from grasshoppers because they have the ability to change their behaviour and physiology, in particular their colour and shape (morphology) in response to changes in density (see Fig. 1). Adult locusts can form swarms which may contain thousands of millions of individuals and which behave as a unit. The non-flying nymphal or hopper stage can form bands. A band is a cohesive mass of hoppers that persists and moves as a unit. In general, most grasshoppers do not form bands or true swarms. However, the distinction between locusts and grasshoppers is not clear-cut since some of the latter do form bands (e.g. Melanoplus, Acridoderes, Hieroglyphus sp.) or small loose swarms (e.g. Oedaleus senegalensis). Locusts such as the Tree Locust have never been known to form bands.” [11]

Where is the plague of locusts?

A plague of migratory locusts – the worst the region has witnessed in decades – has been tearing through huge swathes of crop and pastureland, from the Horn of Africa to the deserts of Kenya. So far this year, infestations have been …

Which countries have not witnessed a swarm of locusts?

Tracking and spraying highly migratory locust plagues also requires huge amounts of resources – and, given several countries affected, including Kenya and Uganda, have not witnessed a swarm of this magnitude in decades, many are without the equipment, pesticides or manpower necessary to effectively halt invasions. 9.

What is the FAO’s locust watch?

For the last four decades, the Desert Locust Watch – FAO’s international center for global desert locust surveillance and management – has been helping affected countries combat infestations. In line with this, the FAO have developed eLocust3, a GPS reporting device for field teams and farmers to send instant alerts on the presence and location of locusts, as well as their stage of development. These alerts are sent via satellite to national locust centres and the Desert Locust Watch, based in Rome. Using this data, experts are able to pinpoint the location of locusts in real-time, mobilise control efforts and provide early-warnings to countries soon to be affected. 22

What is a desert locust?

The perpetrator behind this destruction is none other than the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria), a species of short-horned grasshopper which inhabits arid grasslands and desert regions from West Africa to India. What gives the desert locust species (along with a handful of other grasshopper species) their ’locust’ nickname is a unique behavioural trait: out of some 12,000+ grasshopper species, only a dozen have the capacity to form swarms under the right conditions. In other words – the only difference between a desert locust and its fonder known relative, the grasshopper, is how they behave. 3

Where are the plagues in Africa?

So far this year, infestations have been recorded in dozens of countries, including Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Eritrea, Uganda, India, Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia, with East African regions being hit the worst. 1 In Ethiopia and Somalia, plagues of this scale have not been seen in 25 years, while in Kenya, not in over 70. 2.

Can we expect locust plagues?

While it’s currently unclear whether we can expect more migratory locust plagues in a warming world, it’s an alarming possibility – one we need to be prepared for. Preventing swarms from forming, rather than treat ing them when they arrive, remains the best way to protect farmers, save money, reduce food insecurity and minimise our environmental impact.

Do locusts reduce food?

What’s more, locusts don’t just reduce human food sources, but livestock food sources as well – as desert locust swarms obliterate rangeland, rural pastoralists feel the brunt, as cattle are left with nowhere to graze. 11.

Leave a Comment