Vijaya Laxmi Tripura
In the past two weeks, swarms of locusts have attacked southern Iranian provinces. The locusts are reportedly originated from Saudi Arabia where there was no fight to control them. Locusts can fly some 200 kilometers but the distance between Iran and Saudi Arabia is way more than this, he noted, adding that these insects may have been transferred to the vicinity of Iranian borders in the Persian Gulf by vessels.
Locust is considered one of the world’s most dangerous pests due to its ability to reproduce rapidly, fly vast distances and devastate crops. Since last year, the desert locust is threatening large swaths of Saudi Arabia in one of the worst outbreaks of recent times.
Last months, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization issued a warning on the surge in desert locust numbers threatening the Arabian Peninsula, particularly the Kingdom. The UN alert follows heavy rainfall in eastern Sudan, which created favorable conditions reproduction and migration.
In general, locust outbreaks are expected to become more frequent and severe under climate change.
Locusts are harmless when solitary, experts say. Problems arise when they congregate in groups, becoming more abundant and voracious. A desert locust swarm can cover 740 sq km, with up to 80 million insects, and can travel up to 400 km a day.
In the immature adult phase, a locust can consume its own weight — about 2 g — in vegetation every day, according to the FAO. A small part of an average swarm can eat the same amount of food in one day as 10 elephants, 25 camels or 2,500 people.
In turn, swarms can threaten crop production. “Desert locusts are known to attack farmers’ fields and can eat their crops in a single morning,” warned Cressman.
When a locust swarm lands, they can cause crop losses of between 80 to 100 percent.
As vegetation dries out, locusts concentrate in green vegetation to form hopper bands and adult swarms.
In January, a massive swarm of locusts descended on Makkah, forcing experts to send specialized sanitation crews to tackle the plague.
Managing locusts requires a tremendous team effort of individuals working together across sectors and borders.
Without that, locusts — which can survive and breed in countries from West Africa to the Indian subcontinent — will present a growing threat, destroying crops in the most impoverished countries and threatening food security in wealthier nations.