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Explainer: India’s locus nightmare is here. But Why?

Aggressive and massive swarms of locusts have been invading urban areas of Northern and Western India in the last few days amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Many areas of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Vidarbha region of Maharastra have been witnessing this phenomenon. This is the worst locust attack in 27 years that India has witnessed. 
 
This short-horned crop-devouring insect undergoes a behavioural change when their population grows. When they enter the aggressive phase, they can travel upto 150 Kms per day, gulping down every bit of greenery around, destroying crops and threatening the food security of any country. 
 
Locust invasion around the world 
 
Around the world, Ethiopia and Somalia are witnessing locust attacks at a massive scale. The Government of Pakistan had declared a nationwide emergency due to locusts destroying crops in almost 38% of the country’s agriculture belt. Similar locust invasion was also reported by Afghanistan, Iran and the Arabian Peninsula. 
 
Meanwhile, the first sighting and prediction of a locust attack for India came when they were spotted at the Indo-Pakistan border in April. Meanwhile In India, locusts make their entry generally between July to October. 
 
According to Agriculture Ministry, part of Western Rajasthan and Northern Gujarat witnessed damaged to several crops due to swarms of these insect attacks.
 
Migrating in search of food
 
The Food and Agriculture Organisation has said that these locusts have begun migrating in search of food.“Spring-bred swarms from Pakistan started arriving in Rajasthan earlier this month. As this is before the monsoon rains, they found dry conditions so they continued to move east in Rajasthan looking for green vegetation for food and shelter where they will mature and then lay eggs with the onset of the monsoon in about five weeks,” the FAO said. 
 
But, why did they arrive early this year? Agriculture Scientists say they can be traced back the cyclonic storms in Oman and Yemen. They storms had turned large deserts into lakes, making them breeding grounds for locust populations. Heavy rains in Africa, Iran and Pakistan have led to further breeding of locusts, increasing their population. 
 
Spraying efforts underway

 
Commenting on the attacks, agriculture scientists say that the chances of crop damage are currently low as farmers have already harvested their rabi crop. Meanwhile, efforts are being made by the Agriculture Ministry in India to nip the locusts in the bud and stopping them from laying eggs. Given that this could be damaging for the Kharif crop, authorities have begun spraying insecticide on locusts’ night resting places like trees. 
 
According to the Locust Earning Organisation (LWO), India has also placed an order for 60 specialised insecticide sprayers with the UK while it already has 50 such machines. The government is also using drones to spray in other places. 
 

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