Mega-swarms of 80 million locusts devastate India in worst plague for 25 years – The Sun

A MEGA-SWARM of up to 80 million locusts has torn through India in the worst invasion from the bugs in 25 years.

The pests have destroyed more than 500,000 hectares of crops and descending on rural and urban parts of the nation.

A single medium size locust swarm can have between 40 and 80 million insects, which can consume as much food in one day as 35,000 people.

Shocking footage shows the locusts flying in massive numbers passed windows and houses, clinging to trees and descending on farmers crops.

A farmer living near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, one of the areas worst hit by the locusts, Prem Sing Gogeli tried to fight off the bugs by spraying pesticides in the fields and banging metal pans and running a noisy tractor around in circles to scare them away from the ruckus, according to The Telegraph. 

He said farmers had only just begun recovering from a previous attack last winter where the locusts returned in full force.

He also filmed the insects storming through the city of Jaipur, who rarely see the locusts.

The swarms don't usually fly into India from June until July when the monsoon season creates a perfect breeding environment for them to bury their eggs where there will be fresh leaves when they hatch.

Braced for more invasions

But this year's attack from the pests started weeks earlier because of spring breeding in southern Iran and southwest Pakistan.

The young insects can tear through up to 100 miles per day.

Mr Singh Gogeli said the locusts found less food because of their early arrival, so they moved further inland in search of crops.

The Indian Government is ratcheting up measures to prepare for even further swarms following the expected rain in June, leading to more invasion in July.

Its readying monitoring activities, tractors and spray equipment to blanket the ground in pesticide.

It's also getting ready to use drone to treat tall trees and other inaccessible areas.

But the drastic lockdown measures still in place because of coronavirus in India, the incursion of locusts will make it tough to fend off further swarms.

Deputy director at the Locust Warning Organisation in Faridabad, a city in south-east India, said: "Social distancing rules and restricted movement between states makes it more difficult for our operators to patrol the affected areas."

'Unpredictable' swarms

A climate scientist with the University of Maryland in the US Raghu Murtuggude said changes in the climate are causing erratic and unpredictable invasions from the locusts.

He said: "(this year) for almost 90 days there high rainfall over Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and north and central India."

"Such intense pre-monsoon activity is quite unusual and the moisture seems to have been generated by what scientists call westerly disturbances (storms that carry moisture from the Atlantic and the Mediterranean) which this year have been warmer than normal."

Ajay vir Jakhar, chairman of the farmers association Bharat Krishak Samaj, lives in Maujghar, a Punjabi village at the border with Pakistan.

He said farmers needed warnings at least a day before the swarms arrive.

He said:  “My village is five kilometers from the border, if we don’t get warnings before the swarms arrive, what’s the use of an update? We need to know about locust movements at least one day in advance”.


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