What is a locust?
- It is species of large grasshopper.
- They are found specially in tropical regions.
- There are over 10000 species of locust are found around the world.
- Among those species let’s focus on Desert locust which are mainly causing crisis around the world.
- These are migratory insects. It can travel at least 150 km per day and crosses countries after country. This is why this species is also named as international trans-boundary pests.
- Desert locust are found in North Africa, Middle East and Indian subcontinent
- Scientific name of desert locust: Schistocerca gregaria
- They are able to change their behavior, shape and color according to the environment.
- An adult female locust can lay around 80 eggs.
- Lifespan of locust is around 90 days.
Behavioral pattern of Locusts
- Solitary phase is the time when they move individually or in low number.
- Gregarious phase is when these creatures behave like cohesive units and move across the landscape in millions. It is the phase when they get biologically attracted to each other. And this phase is a threat to mankind.
History of Locust attack in India and how India is prepared for
- It is not the first time India is facing such Locust threat. India experienced a series of locust outbreaks in the nineteenth century.
- India realized the need of centralized organisation to collect and monitor information about locusts after the 1927-29 locust outbreak and as a result Standing Locust Committee was established in 1929.
- Which is followed by the formation Central Locust Bureau in 1930.
- The Locust Warning Organisation was established in 1939.
- The locust swarm invaded India in 1993. This was the last time India experienced such threat in which border districts of Rajasthan and Gujarat was severely affected. The invasion lasted for few months.
Origin of locusts and how they invaded India?
- The swarm of locusts originated from Northern Africa. This region faces shortage of rainfall during September to December.
- In this area a high-pressure wind system is created and follows into India. This natural phenomenon is known as western disturbances causes rainfall in western India. In this time desert locust find a perfect weather condition in India to reproduce. Here is the western disturbances which plays a key role in the migration of this migratory pests.
- In summer 2020 Northern India faced rain falls that worked as catalyst in their invasion into India.
Know how the locust could be threat to agriculture in India?
- They possess a tremendous destructive capacity.
- Almost 40 – 80 million locusts can occupy in only one square kilometer area.
- Desert Locust Swarms can eat as much food as 35,000 at the rate of 2.3 kg of food per day per individual.
Here is the worst part
- Desert Locust Swarms are preparing to start laying eggs just after the monsoon and continue to breed for few months. As this (June 2020) is the kharif crop season.
- Once the kharif crops becomes ready to harvest the time the new generation of locusts will be emerging.
- These insects are polyphagous.
How to manage the locust plague in India ?
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched a website to monitor the weather, ecological conditions and the locust movement on a regular basis.
- Use of Biopesticides like fungi, bacteria, neem extract and pheromones could be used in large quantity to avoid harm of crops.
- Locust management authorities should be functional under proper guidelines and also need an improvement of policies.
- Preventing and addressing the damage caused by locust swarms requires cooperation between Center and states. Various NGOs and weather forecast department should come together to predict, monitor, and respond to locust swarms.
- Drones could be used for spraying insecticides on locust swarms.
- Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) should allocate enough fund for locust control.
- Faridabad based Locust Warning Organization (LWO) is in operation and currently monitoring the whole situation.
- FAO Commission was established to Control the Desert Locust in South-West Asia (SWAC).
- There are some species which can be used in large numbers to combat the locust swarm in natural way. Pigs, toads, ducks, snakes, ground beetles and parasitic flies are known to reduce the locust population.
The link between locusts and climate change?
Precautions should be taken while combating locust attack in India.Farmers and concerned authorities should be careful while using insecticides as such these chemicals might also harm the birds which are believed to be the natural predators of locusts. Bird and plant friendly insecticides should be used in current scenario. Neem seed kernels are rich in limonoids and chemical limonoid like azadirachtin could be used been as this is certified by health authorities in the USA and Europe as being non-hazardous to birds. Some bird species like house sparrows are rarely seen around us. Bird protection should be focused more precisely which will help to combat the locust swarms in the long run.