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What are locusts? | An Overview

Locusts are the Insect of the order Orthoptera, which at about 30,000 species make up one of the largest insect orders. An ancient group, locusts are found on all continents except Antarctica. They are particularly common in temperate and tropical grasslands and savannas, but some species also occur in forest habitats.

The most destructive locusts are ants (Order: Isoptera), which can form huge swarms that strip whole areas of vegetation. Locusts have been a major agricultural pest since early times, and their ability to form huge swarms makes them especially dangerous. Outbreaks of locusts can cause widespread famine and economic devastation.

History of Locusts

The first recorded locust plague happened in Egypt more than 3,500 years ago. Since then, there have been many other outbreaks reported in various parts of the world. Outbreaks usually happen when conditions are right for breeding and rapid population growth. For example, warm temperatures and plentiful rain can lead to ideal breeding conditions. Once mature, these insects can travel great distances in search of food.

The history of Locusts is intertwined with the history of agriculture. For centuries, Locust has been a scourge of farmers, destroying crops and causing widespread famine. In some cultures, Locusts are considered a sign of impending disaster, and their arrival is often met with fear and trepidation.

The most famous Locust outbreak in recent history occurred in 1988-89 when swarms of Locusts devastated crops in North America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The outbreak caused an estimated $20 billion in damage and affected more than 20 million people. The First Locusts outbreak in Pakistan was in 1993 and caused severe damage to crops.

While Locusts can have a devastating impact on crops, they are also an important part of the ecosystem. Locusts are a food source for many animals, including birds, rodents, and reptiles. In addition, Locusts play an important role in the pollination of plants.

How do these swarms form?

Locusts are social insects that live in large groups. When conditions are right, Locusts can form swarms that can number in the billions. These swarms can cover vast areas of land and can be up to 1,000 kilometres long.

What conditions cause Locusts to swarm?

Locusts only swarm when conditions are right. The right conditions include a plentiful food supply and the presence of other Locusts. When these conditions are met, Locusts will begin to mate and lay eggs. The eggs hatch and the young Locusts begin to feed. As they feed, they grow and moult their skin. This process is called lactogenesis, and it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

Once the Locusts reach adulthood, they begin to reproduce. The reproductive cycle can last anywhere from two to six weeks. During this time, Locusts will mate and lay eggs. A single Locust can lay up to 80 eggs in her lifetime.

When do Locusts swarm?

Locusts typically swarm during the spring and summer months. However, in some parts of the world, Locusts can be active year-round.

The Pros and Cons of Locusts

There are both pros and cons to Locusts. On the one hand, Locusts can cause significant damage to crops and infrastructure. On the other hand, Locusts are an important part of the ecosystem and play a role in pollination.

Pros:

  1. Locusts are an important part of the ecosystem
  2. They play a role in pollination
  3. Used as a food source for animals
  4. Source of income for some people
  5. They are protein-rich

Cons:

  1. Destroy crops
  2. Damage infrastructure
  3. Disrupt transportation
  4. Cause food shortages and inflation
  5. They can lead to loss of livelihood for farmers
  6. Have a significant impact on industries such as tourism, hospitality, and retail.
  7. Can be a sign of impending disaster.
  8. Locusts can cause widespread famine.
  9. Form swarms that can number in the billions.
  10. They only swarm when conditions are right, which includes a plentiful food supply and the presence of other Locust.
  11. They typically swarm during the spring and summer months. However, in some parts of the world, Locusts can be active year-round.

Types of Locusts

There are 2 main types of locusts: desert (Schistocerca gregaria)and migratory (Locusta migratoria) Desert locusts are the most damaging, as they can travel long distances and survive in a wide range of conditions. Migratory locusts are less destructive, but can still cause significant damage to the crop

Migratory Locusts are the most common type of Locusts and are found in temperate regions around the world. Migratory Locusts typically live in grasslands and only form swarms when environmental conditions are favourable. Desert Locusts are found in arid regions of Africa, Asia, and Australia. Unlike migratory Locusts, desert Locusts can form swarms under any conditions and are considered to be more destructive.

While they can be a nuisance, they are not typically considered to be dangerous. they do not carry disease, and only pose a threat to crops and infrastructure. However, in rare cases, Locusts can become aggressive and attack people. In 2003, swarms of Locusts attacked villages in Senegal, causing injuries and fatalities.

Impact of Locusts on Agriculture

Locusts can have a significant impact on agriculture. A single Locust can eat the same amount of food in one day as an adult human. This means that Locusts can consume huge quantities of crops in a short period of time. In fact, a swarm of just 1 million Locusts can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

The impact of Locusts on agriculture can be devastating. They can destroy crops, damage infrastructure, and disrupt transportation. All of these factors can lead to food shortages and inflation. In addition, Locusts can cause widespread famine. The United Nations estimates that Locusts cost the world $8 billion each year in crop damage and control measures.

Locusts are a major problem in Africa, where they often destroy crops and cause food shortages. In fact, They are considered to be one of the most serious agricultural pests in the world. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that Locusts cost Africa $13 billion each year in crop damage and control measures.

How to Control Locusts

There are various methods of controlling Locusts. These include chemical control, biological control and physical control.

  1. Chemical control is the use of insecticides to kill Locusts. Insecticides are typically sprayed from aircraft or ground vehicles. The most common insecticide used for locust control is malathion.
  2. Biological control is the use of natural predators to eat locusts. The most common predator used for locust control is the green lacewing.
  3. Physical control is the use of barriers to prevent Locusts from entering an area. Barriers can be made from metal, plastic, or cloth. One common type of barrier used for locust control is a fence.

The best way to control Locusts is to prevent them from forming swarms in the first place. This can be done by early detection and eradication of Locusts. Additionally, it is important to monitor environmental conditions that may lead to Locusts forming swarms.

Why are desert locusts devastating to agriculture?

Desert Locusts are particularly devastating to agriculture because they can form swarms under any conditions. This means that they are always a threat to crops and infrastructure. In addition, desert Locusts can consume huge quantities of food in a short period of time. For these reasons, desert Locusts are considered to be one of the most serious agricultural pests in the world.

Locusts’ impact on Pakistan Agriculture

The FirstLocusts outbreak in Pakistan was in 1993 and caused severe damage to crops. The second outbreak occurred in 2003, which was the worst Locusts infestation in Pakistan in 50 years. This infestation destroyed millions of acres of crops and caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damage.

In 2010, another Locusts outbreak occurred in Pakistan. This time, the Locusts did not cause as much damage because the Pakistani government took preventive measures. These measures included early detection and eradication of Locusts, as well as monitoring environmental conditions that may lead to Locusts forming swarms.

In 2020 Locusts made devastating swarms in Pakistan which caused enormous damage to the crops. The Locust destroyed standing crops of maize, sorghum, cotton, wheat and vegetables over an area of more than two million hectares. The total value of the damage caused by the Locusts was estimated to be Rs 1.6 trillion ($10 billion). This was a major blow to Pakistan’s economy as agriculture is a key sector. In response to the Locust Pakistani government declared a national emergency and deployed the teams to help with control measures. The government also ordered farmers to spray their crops with insecticides.

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