Grasshopper plague USA The weather in the West is the latest sign of a crisis

Grasshopper plague USA The weather in the West is the latest sign of a crisis. Lobster on a leaf. us The locust population is increasing in the West. The hot, dry weather in the western US poses another problem for the troubled region: lobster overpopulation.

Grasshopper plague

The Guardian explained that the insects that feed on the crop are native to the region and generally have a very small population. But the hot, dry winter that began in 2020 created ideal conditions for more of them to survive to adulthood. Now their population is increasing, and ranchers fear they will eat the vegetation their cattle depend on for food, according to CNN.

Former US Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Sharon Selvaggio told CNN: “Climate change is everyone’s concern, and when we look at extreme events like very severe droughts, we see an increase in natural events like the plague of locusts. ” “It is very worrying”.

According to a threat map from the US Department of Agriculture, 13 states are currently facing locust outbreaks. There are 15 lobsters per square yard of land in parts of Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska.

The Guardian explained that lobsters are a problem for herders and farmers because of the amount they eat. They compete with livestock for forage, snatch leaves from fruit trees and settle in dry areas around crops, eventually eating the grain. The Oregon Department of Agriculture entomologist and agricultural scientist Helmuth Rog told The Guardian it could cause hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

The largest biomass consumers in the country are cattle, not bison. They are lobsters, “said Rog.” They eat and eat from the day of birth until they die. They do just that. While locusts emerge during drought, they also amplify their impact on agriculture.

“There is already a shortage of forage on the farm due to the drought,” University of California Cooperative Extension David Lill told Lest. “They can’t afford to lose more.”


One rancher who is dealing with the infection firsthand is Deborah Jones, 70, from Northern California. Jones said she usually feeds her cattle summer grass, but the locusts made it impossible this year.

“I already had to start feeding hay,” Jones told Last. “The animals don’t go out to graze because the locusts drive them crazy.” Officials are working to suppress the insects with insecticides, but Selvagio argued to CNN that this is not an effective long-term solution.

One reason is that insecticides can harm lobster predators and competitors. Another factor in their spread, for example, is the decline in grassland bird species that would keep them under control.

“Climate change could bring us more locusts in the future with greater frequency, duration or severity,” Selvagio told CNN. “We need those long-term solutions to tackle lobsters in the long term because we know that we may have to deal with more in the future if we don’t take it seriously.”

Grasshopper plague USA
Grasshopper plague USA

Locusts are a plague of the biblical kingdom in 2020. Why? And … what exactly are they?

A swarm of desert locusts flies over trees in a Kenyan village. Millions of insects have reached Kenya, where they are destroying farmland. Titanic swarms of desert locusts that look like dark storm clouds descend savagely over the Horn of Africa. They are roaming farmland and flat fields in a devastating salvo that experts consider an unprecedented threat to food security.

On land, subsistence planters can do nothing but stare, staring in horror and despair at their fields. Lobsters have been around since at least the time of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs, 3200 BC. C., devastating some of the most vulnerable regions of the world, increasing to billions and then disappearing, in erratic booms and busts.

If the 2020 edition of these crooks stands firm on its battle path, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says that desert locusts could threaten the livelihoods of 10% of the world’s population.

The threat may already be underway: FAO predicts a second generation of spring-reared lobsters in early June in East Africa, with lobsters capable of wreaking havoc in mid-July or beyond, giving birth to powerful new herds. . Here are five things you need to know about locusts to understand the current crisis and why little invaders are so important.

1. What is the grasshopper?

There can be a lot of confusion about what a grasshopper really is. For the average eye, it’s easy to mix creatures with cicadas and crickets. However, Rick Overson of the Arizona State University Global Locust Initiative points out that the simple answer is that locusts are a very special type of grasshopper.

Lobster on a shea tree: a source of food and income for farmers. As Overson explains, there are hundreds of species of lobsters, “but only a handful of them are what we consider lobsters.”

This raises a question: what makes a grasshopper a locust?

According to Overson, it is a superpower possessed by lobsters that allows them to undergo a remarkable change in evolution. Most of the time, lobsters are present in their “lobster phase”: they lead solitary lives, they are green and unpretentious.

Nobody really notices them, says Overson.

Their time varies and the changes are very irregular, but lobsters can remain that way for years, alone, spending their time.

But when the environmental conditions are right, usually when there’s a lot of precipitation and humidity, something dramatic happens: “They increase in numbers, and as soon as they do, they feel around them,” Overson says.

This is what biologists call the "Greagius phase" of lobsters.

Organisms undergo a remarkable transformation. “They change their physiology. Their brain changes, their color changes, their body shape changes,” says Overson. Rather than repel each other, they attract each other and, if those conditions hold up in the environment, they begin to march together in coordinated formations across the landscape, which is what we see in the East.

This ability to change dramatically in response to environmental conditions is called phenotypic plasticity. Many species, like some types of coral, display it. Although scientists cannot be sure why locusts developed symptoms over time, many believe it is because they are typically temperamental and live in harsh environments.

Lobsters live in areas where the resources they need are very unpredictable, explains Overson. The Horn of Africa, for example, is known to be dry, without heavy rain for years until suddenly a heavy downpour hits it.

The strongest hypothesis is that these crazy and unpredictable dynamics sequentially select the ability to go through these dramatic changes, when you can seize a unique opportunity and also have the ability to migrate.

When locusts swarm like this, they destroy agriculture and eat pretty much everything they can see. Although they have teeth, lobsters do not bite humans. (Unless you, you know, stuck a finger in his jaw; he’ll probably bite you, says Overson.)

2. Where do lobsters swarm and how big are they?

The swarms are most intense in East African countries, including Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, but FAO’s Desert Locust Watch data document continued deterioration in Southwest Asia and the Middle East. The victims include Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uganda and Iran.

“In Kenya, this is the worst outbreak in 70 years,” says Keith Kreisman, senior lobster forecasting officer at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “In India or Pakistan, this is probably the worst they have faced in the last quarter century.”

Swarms are a large group of tens of billions of flying insects. They range from a square third of a mile to 100 square miles or more, with 40 million to 80 million lobsters packed into a half square mile. They raze pastures the size of football fields and small towns in dark clouds.

In northern Kenya, Cressman says, a swarm was reported to be 37 miles wide by 25 miles long, which would cover the city of Paris 24 times. Experts say the fluctuations are likely related to extreme weather events: powerful cyclones hit Oman, Yemen and the Horn of Africa in 2018, according to Cressman.

The humid conditions remain, creating ideal conditions for the reproduction of insects. Once they enter the dough stage, a generation of lobsters can multiply twenty times every three months. So when they bounce, they do it really fast and things get out of hand quickly.

3. How far can lobsters travel?

Lobsters are transboundary migratory pests. They ride the winds, moving across the ground until they find something they want to chew on. They are especially loved for cereal crops, which are widely planted throughout Africa.

“They are powerful long-distance commuters, so they can easily cover more than 100 kilometers in a 24-hour period,” says Overson. “They can easily move across countries in a matter of days, which is one of the other big challenges in the coordinated efforts needed between nations and institutions to manage them.”

In 1988, swarms originating from North Africa crossed the Atlantic Ocean and successfully reached the Caribbean and South America. Even today, they regularly cross the Red Sea, a distance of 300 kilometers. Estimates suggest that current locust populations are “set to spread from East to West Africa in June or July,” Overson says. “There are big concerns there.”

4. How do locusts affect food security?

Lobsters are very dangerous to eat. An adult desert locust weighing about 2 grams (a fraction of an ounce) can consume roughly its own weight per day. And they are not picky at all. According to the FAO, a herd of just 1 square kilometer, again about a third of a square mile, can consume food consumed by 35,000 people (or six elephants) in a single day.

“When they land, they can cause almost total chaos,” says Overson. “They can destroy 50 to 80% of crops, depending on the time [of the year].”

The last major locust outbreak, which began in 2003 and lasted until 2005, caused some $ 2.5 billion worth of crop damage. The studies found that subsistence farmers largely felt the economic hit. Boys growing up during this period were much less likely to attend school and girls were disproportionately affected.

To make matters worse, many countries that are dealing with the worst infections are already dealing with protracted crises: rebounding from recession, battling natural disasters, battling conflict, and now the coronavirus outbreak.

We are talking about a corner of Africa that is really vulnerable, “says Cressman.” They have had consecutive years of drought, and then this year, they have had heavy rains and floods. So even without the lobsters, they are already in a precarious position.

Now, Cressman says the potential threat of hunger is overwhelming in a region where 42 million were already prepared to face acute food insecurity. The locusts are in your field in the morning, and by noon, there is hardly anything left in your field, “he says.” It just ate.

5. How do countries fight locusts?

There is a list of international institutions that coordinate lobster management and response. The main effort is from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which runs Desert Locust Watch to study and track lobster migration patterns and oversee regional response efforts.

In individual countries, liquidity constraints, competitive priorities, and internal challenges make it difficult to decide on a long-term pest management strategy. As locust numbers are decreasing and flowing, Overson says it is difficult for countries like Kenya.

Which has not experienced an infection in 70 years, to build medium and long-term infrastructure to prevent outbreaks. Many governments are now struggling to find a solution. When you have these unpredictable boom-and-bust cycles that can last for years or decades.

It’s hard to maintain wealth, political will, knowledge and capacity building, he says. It’s important to cover the drama and spectacle of the outbreak right now, but the more nuanced narrative involves a slow and fast-paced method of building infrastructure – if you wait until it’s reactive and forget about it until it happens again, we will be in this position forever.

At this time, the most effective way to combat the outbreak is to use massive aerial sprays of insecticides to kill locusts. Overson says this is not ideal, given the adverse effects these chemicals have on biodiversity and human health. But emerging technologies may hold promise for the future.

For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently partnered with the United Nations to repurpose a technique used to track smoke plumes from fires to predict lobster migration, Scientific American reported. And in terms of locust extermination, Overson says biopesticides have untapped potential.

Although a lot of research and development is still needed in this area. Considering all the other emergencies around the world in 2020, relief resources have been diluted. There has been a delay in the delivery of pesticides. But Cressman is hopeful that the necessary funding will materialize.

FAO has already raised half of the $ 300 million needed for this effort. The international community is very committed and very on board, despite the fact that a lot is being asked of them for many other things at the moment, he says.

How a grasshopper becomes a pest
How a grasshopper becomes a pest

How a grasshopper becomes a pest. Huge swarms of desert locusts that took over East Africa and beyond earlier this year are breeding again, with a second wave of insects now threatening food supplies and livelihoods. It is the worst infection in a quarter of a century. How did it get so bad?

Detailed image of desert locust

One of those desert locusts, a type of grasshopper, generally prefers to lead a shy and solitary life. It develops from an egg into a young grasshopper, known as a jumper, and then into a flying adult. It is a simple, yet infallible existence.

Detailed image of a giant desert locust

But every now and then, the Desert Locusts undergo a Jekyll and Hyde transformation. When crowded together, as in shrinking areas of green vegetation, they cease to be solitary creatures and become mini “oceanic” animals. In this new mating stage, the insects change color and form groups that can become huge flying swarms of marauding predatory insects.

Such a locust swarm can be very large. These can contain up to 10 billion individuals and can extend for hundreds of kilometers. They can cover distances of up to 200 km (120 miles) in one day, destroying rural livelihoods in their relentless drive to feed and reproduce.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), even an average herd can destroy enough crops to feed 2,500 people for a year. Locust outbreaks have declined in recent decades. Number of reporting countries, 1926-2019

Swelling plague or recession

Deceleration means that lobsters are present at low density; The appearance means that many locust outbreaks have intensified through reproduction; Plague means severe, generalized infection that lasts for more than a year; The end of the plague is called the fall.

According to the United Nations, the last big increase in West Africa in 2003-05 – a sharp increase in herd numbers – cost $ 2.5 billion in crop losses. But the 1930s, 40s, and 50s also saw huge and disastrous increases.

Some of them expanded to various regions to reach the numbers necessary to be declared “plague”. Overall, the FAO estimates that the desert locust affects the livelihoods of one in 10 people on the planet, making it the most dangerous migratory pest in the world.

NOTE: Deceleration means that lobsters are present at low density. The appearance means that many locust outbreaks have intensified through reproduction; Plague means severe, generalized infection that lasts for more than a year; The end of the plague is called the fall.

New locust swarms are evolving

Earlier this year, the worst desert locust swarm in decades destroyed crops and pastures in East Africa and beyond, threatening the food security of the entire subregion.

The voracious worms spread rapidly in January and February in several East African countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, as well as in areas of Pakistan. It became the worst infection in Kenya in 70 years and the worst in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25.

FAO now fears that March and the aftermath of favorable wet weather will once again lead to a second wave of herds posing an “unforeseen threat” to livelihoods. The number of pests could multiply by 20, FAO warns, unless control activities are intensified.

Many countries are on lobster alert

This could be particularly devastating in East Africa, a region already experiencing widespread food insecurity due to conflict, droughts and floods. But the situation is also worrying in Iran and Yemen, FAO says, where new swarms are also developing.

Tens of thousands of hectares of crops and pastures have already been damaged by locusts in East Africa. FAO says that earlier this year, herds were consuming 1.8 million tons of vegetation per day in 350 square kilometers (135 square miles). The organization believes that a herd in Kenya covered an area of ​​40 by 60 km (25 mi and 40 mi).

How much can a grasshopper eat?

An adult desert locust can eat its own weight in food every day: about 2g Infographic showing how much an adult desert locust can eat. It consumes about 2 grams, the equivalent of its own body weight. A one-square-kilometer herd can consume the same amount as 35,000 people.

The prospect of a new wave of locusts in Kenya and Ethiopia, possibly bigger than ever, is worrying in itself, but the timing couldn’t be worse, says Keith Cressman, FAO’s Senior Locust Prediction Officer. Now is the beginning of the rainy season in those countries and the beginning of planting. The seeds are sprouting and sprouting and now there are swarms of locusts.

These current maturing swarms will soon lay eggs that will produce another generation of locusts that will mature near harvest time, Cressman says, threatening crops twice. The locust crisis also comes at a time when countries are complicating containment operations, with associated restrictions on movements, along with an increase in coronavirus cases.

Ali Bila Wako, a 68-year-old farmer working in northeastern Kenya, was among those affected by the recent herds. They expected a good cereal harvest this season, ending a long dry spell with recent rains. But the lobsters destroyed all of their corn and beans in February.

“They ate most of our grain and what they didn’t eat dried up,” he says. “It hurts a lot. We saw the food with our own eyes but we didn’t even enjoy it.” Recalling locust invasions of the past in the 1960s, Waco describes how swarms darken the skies. “It’s dark and you can’t even see the sun,” he says.

Extreme weather aggravated the crisis

The cause of the current disturbance is attributed to the cyclone and heavy rains of 2018-19. Desert locusts typically live in the arid regions of about 30 countries between West Africa and India, an area of ​​about 16 million kilometers (6.2 million square miles).

But two years ago, favorable and humid conditions in the southern Arabian Peninsula allowed three generations of lobsters to thrive undetected, the United Nations says.

Ups and downs that develop from 2018

In early 2019, the first herds that made their way to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iran were breeding before moving to East Africa. By the end of last year, more swarms had formed in Eritrea, Djibouti and Kenya.

Now spring breeding is expected to lead to more infections in East Africa, Yemen and southern Iran in the coming months. Although these infestations are known to fight due to the wide geographic area affected, FAO’s Mr Cressmann believes that more could have been done earlier to combat this particular locust.

“If there were more and more successful control efforts in some of the major countries, it could have alleviated the situation,” he said.

People trying to deal with large herds

With locust swarms unprecedented in terms of their size and destructive potential in East Africa, countries are struggling to deal with them. Outbreak prevention depends on two main factors: effective surveillance and control.

The Desert Locust Information Service, operated by FAO, provides forecasts, early warnings and alerts on the timing, scale and location of invasion and reproduction. But once populations reach critical levels, as in East Africa, immediate steps must be taken to reduce locust populations, as well as to prevent more swarms from forming and spreading.

How to deal with the locust swarm?

Although more environmentally friendly solutions are being investigated, such as the introduction of biological insecticides or natural predators, the most widely used control method is the insecticide in spray.

With insects showered through handpumps, ground vehicles, or airplanes, entire swarms can be attacked and killed with chemicals in a relatively short period of time. For this reason, FAO is currently working with governments to conduct several aerial pesticide spraying campaigns.

So far, more than 240,000 hectares have been treated in 10 countries and hundreds of people have been trained to conduct operations on the ground. The operation is much more efficient than before, Cressmann says, and restrictions on movements caused by the coronavirus have not significantly hampered operations.

But controlling such large populations of insects in large and remote areas remains a logistical challenge. Mr. Cressman explains that you never really know what percentage of lobsters you have successfully targeted.

But what action is taken now will decide what happens next. If the current outbreak crosses more borders and affects more areas, destroying more crops, a “pest” can be declared. For this reason, it’s important to “shake hands and share knowledge and skills” to keep things from getting worse, Cressman says.

However, for Kenyan farmer Ali Bila Wako, that action is too late. The only thing he and his family could do to fight the pests when they landed was hit and yell at the jerrycan. Still, he remains philosophical about what happened. “It’s God’s will. It’s his army,” he says.

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