The havoc of locusts has been plaguing farmers in parts of northern India for weeks. In the deadliest attack in nearly three decades, these crop-destroying insects of the Acrididae family entered Madhya Pradesh in large numbers earlier this week. Experts say these grasshopper-like insects can endanger India’s food security.
Desert locusts originate in eastern Africa and travel via Saudi Arabia and Iran to Pakistan and India. The larger herd then breaks into smaller herds, affecting various parts of the country.
Herds of desert locusts are spreading in India from Rajasthan to Uttar Pradesh, destroying crops and pastures at a disastrous pace. At present, 16 out of 33 districts of Rajasthan are affected by locust herds. The state’s kharif crop is at risk.
Desert locusts entered Budhni, the constituency of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh, in Sehore earlier this week. Through the Neemuch district in the state, the pests later traveled to parts of Malwa Nimar and reached close to Bhopal.
The Department of Agriculture of Madhya Pradesh has issued an advisory to the farmers of the affected districts to constantly monitor the desert locusts. They have been told to chase these insects by making loud noises through drums, beating utensils and screaming.
In Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, the administration has hired firemen ready to fire with chemicals. The grasshopper today entered a Jaipur residential area before venturing away in search of green areas to calm his intense hunger.
Locusts are short-horned grasshoppers. They have two large hind legs with which they leap. They usually lead solitary lives, but during the dry season they come together in huge flocks and within a few days can massively destroy vegetation.
Locusts eat only plants. In the dry season before the rains, they are huddled together on small pieces of green land. As soon as one comes, one hormone is activated in them, due to which males and females mate and breed rapidly at the beginning of the rainy season. Their physical abilities increase as they enter their giant phase.
Locusts fly quite fast in swarms of millions. They travel tens of miles in a day and have tremendous endurance. They can travel long distances and stay in the air for a long time. They are capable of extensive crop damage. If not killed, they can evacuate the fields in a few hours. Each insect can eat as much as it weighs.
Experts have warned that locusts could destroy a standing moong crop worth about Rs 8,000 crore if locusts are not controlled soon.
According to the United Nations Agency for Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), desert locusts are considered the most dangerous of all migratory insect species in the world. It is a threat to people’s livelihood, food security, environment and economic development.
Experts say that global warming may increase the chances of locust attacks. Rising temperatures reduce rainfall, which means more dry weather and more locust swarms.