The current phase of Locust in India: What is Locust and why is it dangerous?

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Let’s understand what is locust. Locusts are a collection of short-horned grasshoppers that originate from the Acrididae family. These herbivorous insects have the ability to form enormous swarms which can spread across regions, eating on crops, and leaving some serious damage on agriculture.

what is locust

What is locust swarming?

These insects called locust are usually isolated or solitary in nature, but under certain circumstances, they become more abundant, changing their behavior & habits, and becoming social. This is when they form dense and highly mobile swarms which lead to locust attack. This species is known as the short-horned grasshoppers that periodically form large populations in dense migrating groups. They are also described as ‘the oldest migratory pests in the world’ by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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What is locust and how does it grow?

The certain circumstances under which locust reproduce include environmental conditions like a prolonged monsoon and heavy cyclones. This makes them reproduce faster, almost 20-fold within just 3 months. This also makes them abundant and dense, which causes a change in their behavior, leading them to form swarms and start damaging crops. This process is called ‘Gregarisation’.

The life of a locust moves through several phases before it matures into flying adults. This includes the Egg phase which lasts 10-65 days, the Nonflying Nymph phase which can last within 24-95 days, and the Flying Adult phase.

What is locust and its different types?

There are a total of 10 important species of locust that exists in the world: the Desert Locust, the Bombay Locust, the Italian Locust, the Moroccan Locust, the Migratory Locust, the Red Locust, the South American Locust, the Australian Locust, the Brown Locust, and the Tree Locust.

What is locust and why are they dangerous?

According to FAO, an adult locust can eat about 2 grams every single day. Although this hardly seems to be a cause for concern, the fact is that a single swarm of locusts ranges between 40-80 million adult locusts. This means that a locust swarm covers nearly 130-150 kilometers, eating food that can be consumed by 35000 people at a single time. These insects fly with the wind at a speed of nearly 16-19 km/hour and can travel around 150 km in a single day itself.

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The current phase of locust swarm in India – Locust attack India

India is witnessing the worst locust attack in 27 years. This swarm originated in East Africa and has now reached India. This swarm has already destroyed crops in 18 districts of Rajasthan and almost a dozen districts of Madhya Pradesh, just like it was predicted by the United Nations. It has also taken its turn to affect Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra and is now believed to affect 17 more districts in Aligarh, Mathura, and Jhansi in the next couple of weeks.

As reported by Devinder Sharma, an Agriculture and Trade policy expert, “This year the locusts are breeding 400 times more than usual due to the favorable climatic conditions brought on by the untimely rains and increased cyclonic activity.”

The current method of control used by India in the current swarm situation is by spraying small concentrated doses of chemicals, by vehicle-mounted and aerial sprayers. This would be the first time that drones and planes will be used to fight a locust attack.

And while the country is battling this situation positively, experts have also given out warnings that the rising temperature, low rainfall and the long dry spells could mean more locust swarms in the near future.

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