In the fiercest attack in 27 years, India has been swarmed by the locusts since May 25, 2020 and now the spread has gone way beyond Rajasthan. The migratory pests have invaded many states in India and are attacking the local crops and plants.
Of all its species, the Desert Locust (the ones attacking India) is the most destructive and has the potential to easily affect 20 per cent of the total land on earth, more than 65 of the world’s poorest countries, and damage the livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s population.
Locusts in India usually come during the period between July and October. However, this year their arrival has been early.
A Desert Locust lives for about 90 days. They multiply at a rapid pace. They generally migrate to India at the onset of monsoon as it is conducive to their survival and reproduction. They fly up to 150 km per day.
This migration began in Africa, moved to Middle East, Iran, Pakistan and then India.
One of the characteristics of locusts is that they do not travel at night and follow the wind direction.
States under attack:
The Union Environment Ministry has issued a warning to Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. The United Nations has warned that armies of locusts swarming across continents pose “severe risk” to India’s agriculture this year.
Uttar Pradesh: In Mathura, the district administration has formed a task force. 200-litre Chloropyriphos has been kept as a reserve. Tractors are spraying the chemical which kills them, and fire brigade department is also on an alert.
Madhya Pradesh: Advisory has been issued to farmers to keep vigil. Use of drums, banging of utensils and shouting has been encouraged as it is said that they move away from sound.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an agency of the United Nations, the desert locust is considered the most dangerous of all migratory pest species in the world. It threatens people’s livelihoods, food security, the environment and economic development, it said.
What farmers can do to prevent locusts:
The occurrence and movement of locust are hard to predict and they move very fast over large, often very remote areas.
Pesticides from planes and drones can be used to cover large areas. The best time is to spray before the gregarisation process begins.
Many farmers use primitive methods such as beating drums, steel plates and make loud noises.
Villagers also use fire and smoke.
Tilling the soil – Females lay their eggs on the ground. By regularly tilling, the eggs can be killed to lessen reproduction.
All-Purpose Flour – this makes its mouth sticky and they aren’t able to eat much. It is a non-toxic method.
Birds/chickens/frogs – they hunt and eat locusts and other insects.
Neem Oil – it is a natural disinfectant with benefits. Spray it across the fields.
Garlic or Hot Pepper Spray – the locust won’t like the taste of the garlic or hot pepper spray. You can spray it on the leaves so they don’t get eaten.