Swarms of locusts forced Somalia to declare a national emergency. Skin-crawling photos show how menacing their plagues can be.

Swarms of locusts forced Somalia to declare a national emergency. Skin-crawling photos show how menacing their plagues can be.

An Ethiopian girl attempts to fend off desert locusts as they fly in a farm on the outskirt of Jijiga in Somali region, Ethiopia January 12, 2020

Giulia Paravicini/REUTERS

  • Billions of desert locusts in East Africa are swarming at “unprecedented numbers” and pose a huge threat to the region’s food insecurity, the UN warns.

  • The swarms are so bad that Somalia declared a national emergency. Ethiopia and Kenya are struggling to maintain the outbreak, and by Wednesday, swarms have moved over the Arabian Peninsula and  reached both sides of the Persian Gulf.

  • The swarms are a result of heavy rainfall and cyclones over the past two years, which provide ideal environments for rapid breeding.

  • Photos reveal a skin-crawling look at locust plagues and how menacing they can be.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Africa’s worst locust outbreak in decades is threatening the continent at an unprecedented scope. And there’s no telling just how far the ravenous creatures will travel.

Desert locusts are the most destructive of all locust species — known for their speedy growth and enormous appetites. A swarm containing an estimated 200 billion locusts was recorded in Kenya, and each insect can eat its own weight in food. That equates to about as much food as 84 million people a day, according to a UN briefing.

Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer at the FAO, recently returned from northeast Somalia and told Business Insider that the locusts are like “a moving carpet of yellow and black objects” each behaving the same way, and packed together so densely that you can’t even see the ground below them.

The insects have already destroyed hundreds and thousands of acres of crops in East Africa, and the UN is calling for international help to quell the crisis. They fear the numbers could grow 500 times by June and reach 30 different countries.

These photos show just how damaging the desert locust can be.

Desert locusts are the most notorious — and damaging — breed of locust. They’re found in around 30 countries throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and can swarm through one-fifth of the landmass on Earth.

Desert Locust .JPG
Desert Locust .JPG

Feisal Omar/REUTERS

Sources: National Geographic, UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Each locust in a swarm can eat its own weight in food per day. A small portion of an average swarm eats around the same amount as 10 elephants, or 2,500 people.

Locust Swarm Kenya
Locust Swarm Kenya

TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

Source: National Geographic, UN Food and Agriculture Organization

A swarm can spread over 460 square miles, with 40 million to 80 million locusts per half-square mile.

swarm of desert locusts .JPG
swarm of desert locusts .JPG

Njeri Mwangi/REUTERS

Source: National Geographic

Author Laura Ingalls Wilder describes how terrifying a swarm can be in her book “On the Banks of Plum Creek.” She wrote that she could feel the insects squishing beneath her feet and hear and the sound of “millions of jaws biting and chewing.”

Desert locusts
Desert locusts

Ben Curtis/AP Photo

Source: The New York Times

During plague recessions, or “quiet periods,” desert locusts typically live in very dry areas of Africa, the Middle East, and South-West Asia that receive fewer than eight inches of rain per year.

Desert locust in dry lands.JPG
Desert locust in dry lands.JPG

Njeri Mwangi/REUTERS

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Locust plagues have been recorded since ancient Egypt, but there’s no evidence to suggest plagues occur with any regularity. Rapid breeding occurs only when the climate is favorable, making them somewhat difficult to track.

Locusts grazing.JPG
Locusts grazing.JPG

Feisal Omar/REUTERS

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

In 1875, the largest locust plague in history turned US skies black, when a swarm 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide flew over the Midwest. Scientists believe there were trillions of “Rocky Mountain Locusts,” a type of insect that’s now extinct.

Historic image of locust swarm
Historic image of locust swarm

Culture Club/Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

But today’s desert locusts are just as havoc-wreaking. According to Dominique Burgeon, an emergency services director at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the current outbreak in Africa is “an unprecedented situation.”

locusts on the ground
locusts on the ground

TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Scientific American

During plagues, desert locusts can spread over millions of miles and travel into parts of 60 countries. This affects over 20% of the earth’s land surface, and according to the UN, plagues can damage the livelihoods for one-tenth of the world’s population.

Desert locust swarm Samburu.JPG
Desert locust swarm Samburu.JPG

Njeri Mwangi/REUTERS

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Plagues are defined as periods of one or more years of widespread infestations as a result of good breeding conditions. Throughout the 1900s, there were six recorded plagues. One of them lasted 13 years.

locusts on mans clothes.JPG
locusts on mans clothes.JPG

Reuters

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Favorable breeding conditions during plagues include moist, sandy soil, and green vegetation. Females can lay up to 158 eggs per egg pod, and are able to reproduce at least three times throughout their life.

Locust egg
Locust egg

Patrick Robert/Sygma/CORBIS/Sygma via Getty Images

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Before reaching adulthood, locusts are in an immature stage and referred to as “hoppers.” Much like teenagers, this is when their appetites are the most ravenous, Cressman told Business Insider.

hopper locust
hopper locust

Ben Curtis/AP Photo

Eggs hatch in about two weeks and can reach adulthood anywhere between three weeks and nine months.

Desert locust on a hand.JPG
Desert locust on a hand.JPG

Feisal Omar/REUTERS

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Desert locusts can travel with the wind and easily cover over 90 miles per day, with the ability to stay in the air for a long time. Swarms have regularly crossed the Red Sea, which is 186 miles wide.

Locusts in Israel .JPG
Locusts in Israel .JPG

Amir Cohen/REUTERS

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

In 1954, a locust swarm traveled all the way from northwest Africa to Great Britain.

Locust swarm in canary islands.JPG
Locust swarm in canary islands.JPG

Reuters

Sources: National Geographic, UN Food and Agriculture Organization

In 1988, a swarm traveled over 3,000 miles in 10 days from West Africa to the Caribbean.

locust swarm a car.JPG
locust swarm a car.JPG

Amir Cohen/REUTERS

Sources: National Geographic, UN Food and Agriculture Organization

As desert locusts become more numerous, they change their behavior to be “gregarious,”and act as a part of a larger group. During this process their color changes from brown (solitary) to yellow and pink (gregarious).

Yellow locusts.JPG
Yellow locusts.JPG

Reuters

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

But that doesn’t mean locusts are particularly friendly toward one another. They actually become cannibalistic during swarms, and insects that don’t move with the flow of the group become easy targets for killing.

locusts rest on branch.JPG
locusts rest on branch.JPG

Amir Cohen/REUTERS

Source: World Economic Forum, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft

Locusts typically have a lifespan of about three to five months, depending on weather and ecological conditions. Since desert locusts breed so quickly, a plague can last longer than a decade.

swarm of locusts.JPG
swarm of locusts.JPG

Njeri Mwangi/REUTERS

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Though swarms can look menacing, desert locusts do not outwardly attack people or animals, and there is no evidence to suggest they carry diseases.

man holds a locust.JPG
man holds a locust.JPG

Njeri Mwangi/REUTERS

Source: UN Food and Agriculture Organization

During locust plagues, pesticides are often sprayed from vehicles and small planes. But researchers have turned to non-chemical methods such as changing farming techniques, and focusing on pathogen and insect growth regulators instead.

plane with locust pesticides.JPG
plane with locust pesticides.JPG

Njeri Mwangi/REUTERS

Sources: NPR, UN Food and Agriculture Organization

But fighting locusts is an expensive battle. From 2003-2005, $450 million was spent to stop a desert locust plague in Africa that resulted in $2.5 billion worth of crop damage.

man sprays locust with pesticides.JPG
man sprays locust with pesticides.JPG

Baz Ratner/REUTERS

Source: Arizona State University

The current locust outbreak in East Africa is thought to have originated in Yemen, traveling over the Red Sea to Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya.

Ethiopian locust swarm.JPG
Ethiopian locust swarm.JPG

Giulia Paravicini/REUTERS

Source: BBC

Unusual cyclones and periods of heavy rainfall from 2018-19 created an ideal environment for the insects to breed, according to the UN. Climate scientists blame this on rapidly warming oceans, and as swarms continue to grow, they fear the locusts will soon spread to multiple countries.

Locust Swarm in Sumburu.JPG
Locust Swarm in Sumburu.JPG

Njeri Mwangi/REUTERS

Sources: BBC, Wall Street Journal, UN News, New York Post

Cressman described the current outbreak as an upsurge, but warned that if it is not controlled, and the weather continues to favor locust breeding then a plague could be reached by the end of the year.

Locust swarm
Locust swarm

Ben Curtis/AP Photo

Source: Wired

This has been the largest outbreak of desert locusts in Somalia and Ethiopia in 25 years. In Kenya, an outbreak of this scope hasn’t been seen in 70 years.

locusts on car.JPG
locusts on car.JPG

Feisal Omar/REUTERS

Source: UN News

The UN estimates that 24 million people are already facing food shortages from weather, general food insecurity, and locust invasions. In Ethiopia, the UN warned that eight million people may need food aid from locust crop attacks.

Ethiopian farmer.JPG
Ethiopian farmer.JPG

Giulia Paravicini/REUTERS

Source: Wall Street Journal

As of Wednesday, February 26, locusts have been detected in Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The UN fears that a new generation of locusts could coincide with the next planting and rain season in East Africa, which would make controlling the outbreak exponentially more difficult.

Young desert locusts
Young desert locusts

Ben Curtis/AP Photo

Sources: UN Press, Business Insider, AP, UN News

Additional swarms have been reported over the Arabian Peninsula, reaching both sides of the Persian Gulf. Ground control operations are currently underway in Saudi Arabia, while a new generation of breeding is in process in Yemen. Officials fear that swarms will spread as dense winds affect the Persian Gulf region.

desert locusts in bin
desert locusts in bin

Luke Dray/Getty Images

Source: FAO

At the beginning of February, Somalia became the first country to declare the current locust outbreak a national emergency, saying that the infestation “poses a major threat to Somalia’s fragile food security situation.”

Somali famers with sheet.JPG
Somali famers with sheet.JPG

Feisal Omar/REUTERS

Source: Al Jazeera

“The locusts have destroyed all of our grazing land, and I am very worried that my livestock will starve and die because these locusts are everywhere and are taking over the whole area,” Abdulah Hassan, a herdsman in Somalia, told Business Insider Today.

Kenyan farmer Mwende Kimanzi looks at the damage caused to her crops after locusts swarm descended on it in the region of Kyuso, Kenya, February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Kenyan farmer Mwende Kimanzi looks at the damage caused to her crops after locusts swarm descended on it in the region of Kyuso, Kenya, February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Reuters

Source: Business Insider

The UN is currently seeking $138 million from international donors in order to “urgently support both pest control and livelihood protection operations in the three most affected countries.”

Kenya Locusts in tree
Kenya Locusts in tree

TONY KARUMBA/AFP via Getty Images

Source: UN News, Business Insider

“The current control operations that are underway are not enough, simply because there is an insufficient amount of financial resources,” Cressman told Business Insider. The UN fears that if they don’t receive the proper funding as quickly as possible, millions of people will be threatened with food insecurity.

Locust plage
Locust plage

Ben Curtis/AP Photo

Source: UN Press Briefing

Read the original article on Business Insider

Source : Link

Follow 3-www.NET
Follow
e-News.US
  
Share
e-News.Us

Category Latest Posts