Locust Swarm - Important Facts about Locusts for UPSC

Locusts are termed as the oldest migratory pests in the world. They are short-horned grasshoppers, belonging to a family called Acrididae. They have the ability to change their behaviour with respect to changes in weather and region. These locusts form swarms of adults (bands of hoppers) and breed on standing crops and plants.

Recently, Locust Swarm has made the headlines with its early arrival in India, affecting five states at the moment – Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. In 2020, the locust swarm is termed the ‘worst in 26 years,’ and the United Nations (UN) has warned it to be posing a ‘severe risk’ to India’s agriculture this year.

The topic, ‘Locust Swarm’ is seen as important from the IAS Exam perspective as it forms an important topic for the Current Affairs section and also Geography subject. Read this article to learn important facts about Locusts, Desert Locusts and the challenges associated with these.

Locusts - UPSC Current Affairs Locusts Swarms - UPSC Current Affairs

Facts about Locusts – Locust Swarms for UPSC

The table below mentions a few important facts about Locusts that can be important for UPSC 2020:

Locust Swarms – Facts for UPSC
There are ten prominent species of Locusts:

  1. Desert Locust
  2. Bombay Locust
  3. Migratory Locust
  4. Italian Locust
  5. Moroccan Locust
  6. Red Locust
  7. Brown Locust
  8. South American Locust
  9. Australian Locust
  10. Tree Locust
In India, out of these ten locusts, only four are reported:

  1. Desert locust
  2. Migratory locust
  3. Bombay Locust and
  4. Tree locust
Scientific Names of the locusts reported in India are:

  1. Desert locust – Schistocerca gregaria
  2. Migratory locust – Locusta migratoria
  3. Bombay Locust – Nomadacris succincta,
  4. Tree locust – Anacridium sp
Desert Locus is the most harmful for the plants and standing crops and pose a great threat to Indian Agriculture. They have their origin from Saudi Arabia
The Locusts who are in their nymphal stage and yet to reach adulthood are called Wingless Nymphs and in a group, they are called bands of locusts
Locust Swarms are highly mobile and they can be very dense. One swarm of locust can have around 80 lakhs of these
Locusts and Grasshoppers are not the same. Locusts form a part of Grasshoppers but differ in their movement and behavioural patterns
Locusts belong to the family called Acrididae
Desert Locusts are polyphagous feeders – They have the ability to feed on many kinds of food:

  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Fruits
  • Seeds
  • Bark of trees and growing points
Desert Locusts can also break down trees when they settle on these in masses. The weight of such masses of locusts is such that a tree can fall down
In the world, around 64 countries are mostly affected by locust swarms
Desert Locusts fly at a speed of 16-19 km/hour; however, the speed also depends on the wind speed
Locust Swarms can cover 5-130 km of distance in a day and can stay in the air for a long period of time
When a solitary locust flies, it usually flies at night; however when it is part of locust swarms; they fly during the day
Widespread rainfall generates an increase in the numbers of Locusts and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has warned that locust numbers could grow another 20 times during the upcoming rainy season unless control activities are stepped up
The lifespan of a locus is 90 days
The swarm of locusts always stay together and eat the food of their size each day
They can populate easily in three breeding seasons by 16000 times

Also Read | Daily News Analysis for UPSC Preparation.

Locust Swarms & India

The following points mention the state of India amid current locust swarms attack:

  1. Desert Locusts have followed the wind patterns to cover a vast stretch from the Rab’ al-Khali desert of Saudi Arabia to the fields of Rajasthan and beyond.
  2. These desert locust swarms have destroyed crops in agricultural fields of states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and also Uttar Pradesh.
  3. With the onset of monsoon and change in wind direction, they fly towards India from Saudi Arabia, crossing the Red Sea over to Iran and Pakistan.
  4. India faces an average of 10 locus attacks in a year.
  5. 2020 has also seen extensive rain in India before the expected months following which moisture and greenery have attracted locusts. Egg-laying also occurs in the rainy season
  6. According to FAO, a single square kilometre of the locust swarms can contain up to 80 million adults and can eat as much food as 35,000 people in terms of weight in a single day.
  7. Longer-than-usual monsoon across the Indo-Pakistan border and frequent cyclones in the Indian Ocean are speculated to be the reasons for the early locust swarm attack.

Check | Current Affairs for UPSC

Indian Cities/districts that are affected by the outbreak of locusts swarms are:

Nagaur Jaipur Dausa Bangra Magarpur
Western Rajasthan districts Malhargarh Jhansi Amravati
Wardha Nagpur Delhi has been put on alert

India’s Response to Locust Swarms

Locust Watch Centres are warning farmers of the speculated movement of the locust swarms. Also, the use of organophosphate chemicals with ultra-Low volume sprayers is a method to control the locust swarms attack. ‘Chlorpyriphos’ is being reserved in certain cities as it is effective in controlling a variety of insects following ministries are keeping the charge of the locust attacks:

  1. Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare
  2. Ministry of External Affairs
  3. Ministry of Home Affairs
  4. Ministry of Defence
  5. Ministry of Earth Sciences
  6. Ministry of Civil Aviation and
  7. Ministry of Communications

The role of stakeholders like State Governments, State Health Department and farmers, is equally important. The government is making use of drones to track the locust swarms movements. The other things used to contain the attack are:

  • Satellite-derived tools
  • Special fire-tenders and
  • Sprayers at pre-identified border locations

Locust Swarms & the World

According to the FAO data, the following regions are or can be affected by the attack of locust swarms.

Note: The outbreak of locust swarms started with the onset of heavy rainfall in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Region of Locust Swarms Attack Countries/Cities
East Africa Kenya
South Sudan
Uganda
Somalia
Kenya
Ethiopia
West Africa Chad
Arabian Peninsula Yemen
Saudi Arabia
Oman
UAE
South West Asia Iran
Pakistan
India

Locust Swarms – UPSC Notes:- Download PDF Here

Candidates reading ‘Locust Swarms’ for the UPSC current affairs preparation can also refer to the following articles:

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