What is Locust Attack?
In English, the term “locust” is used for grasshopper species that change morphologically and behaviourally on crowding, forming swarms that develop from bands of immature stages called hoppers .
These insects are usually solitary, but under certain circumstances they become more abundant and change their behaviour and habits, becoming gregarious. It is a large, mainly tropical grasshopper with strong powers of flight.
Locusts are generally active from summer to the rainy season. They have a high capacity to multiply, form groups, migrate over relatively large distances (they can fly up to 150 km per day) and, if good rains fall and ecological conditions become favourable, rapidly reproduce and increase some 20-fold in three months.
What Locusts do?
Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and human misery —famine and starvation. If infestations are not detected and controlled, devastating plagues can develop that often take several years and hundreds of millions of dollars to bring under control with severe consequences on food security and livelihoods.
Locust adults can eat their own weight of fresh vegetation per day. A very small swarm eats as much in one day as about 35,000 people, posing a devastating threat to crops and food security.
What are the measures to control it?
Locust Control measures include destroying egg masses laid by invading swarms, digging trenches to trap nymphs, using hopper-dozers (wheeled screens that cause locusts to fall into troughs containing water and kerosene), using insecticidal baits, and applying insecticides to both swarms and breeding grounds from aircraft.
FAO provides information on the general locust situation to the global community and gives timely warnings and forecasts to those countries in danger of invasion.
The FAO raised alarm over the locust outbreak in northeast Africa and Saudi Arabia in February, 2019.
The last major locust outbreak that was reported in Rajasthan was in the year 1993. Recently, in Gujarat, 2019.
What control measures are used in India?
India has a Locust Control and Research scheme that is being implemented through the Locust Warning Organisation.
Locust Warning Organization (LWO):
LMO was established in 1939. It was amalgamated in 1946 with the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage (PPQS) of the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, is responsible for monitoring, survey and control of Desert Locust in Scheduled Desert Areas mainly in the States of Rajasthan and Gujarat and partly in Punjab and Haryana.
Incursion of exotic locust swarms into India is prevented through organization of suitable control operation.
LWO keeps itself abreast with the prevailing locust situation at National and International level through monthly Desert Locust Bulletins of FAO.