Destructive Desert Locusts in Africa
Locusts are part of a group of insects called grasshoppers that have large hind-legs for jumping. Locusts differ from grasshoppers in that they have the ability to change their behavior and habits and can migrate over large distances.
Desert Locusts on the African Continent.The Desert Locust is one of about a dozen species of short-horned grasshoppers that are known to change their behavior and form swarms of adults or bands of hoppers or wingless nymphs. The swarms that form can be dense and highly mobile. Desert Locust lives a total of about three to five months, females can lay at least three times in their lifetime laying around 80 eggs at one time and eggs can hatch in two weeks.
Desert Locusts have been moving to very remote areas, to immense territories where they spread out. In Ethiopia they are scattered across the Somali region near Dire Dawa with little infrastructure. In Turkana County in northern Kenya, sorghum crops with around 15 to 20 percent damage or reduction of the crops were lost due to Desert Locusts.
During quiet periods Desert Locusts are usually restricted to the semi-arid and arid deserts of Africa, but during active periods also known as plagues, 80 million Desert Locusts can spread over 11.2 million square miles or 29 million square kilometers into parts of 60 countries.
This is more than 20% of the total land surface of the world. During plagues, the Desert Locust has the potential to damage the livelihood of a tenth of the world's population. The Desert Locust is considered to be the most important species of locust due to its ability to migrate over large distances and rapidly increase its numbers.
Desert Locust are normally solitary adults that are brown in color but for reasons unknown when they become a swarm or gregarious the immature adults are pink in color and mature adults are yellow in color. All locust begin as eggs then grow into wingless hoppers.
Desert Locust adults can eat its own weight in food per day which a small part of an average swarm eating the same amount of food in one day as about 10 elephants or 25 camels or 2,500 people. Locusts do not attack people or animals but people do eat locusts.
People in several countries collect locusts using large nets and by other means. Locusts are usually stir-fried, roasted or boiled and eaten immediately or dried and eaten later. Locusts are rich in protein.
During periods of increased locust activity, piles of dead locusts can be found in the market places of many countries. In Ethiopia people eat locusts by removing the wings and hind-legs of the locusts, and boil in salted water until soft. In a fry pan add oil fry until brown.
Where are Desert Locust found in Africa?
The Desert Locust is the most destructive migratory pest in the world here is a list of African Countries affected by the Desert Locust:
The Food and Agriculture Organization and the Russian Federation have signed a $10 million Contribution Agreement aimed at boosting efforts to control and eliminate Desert Locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda.
East Africa experiences the largest invasion of Desert Locusts which are the most destructive migratory pest in the world. They are highly mobile and ravenous eaters capable of consuming their own weight per day. A small swarm has the capacity to consume the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people can eat posing a major threat to rural farmers.
Desert Locust outbreaks have four levels.
1. Desert Locust are always present somewhere in the deserts between Mauritania and India. Desert Locust can rapidly increase in number and within a month or two and unless checked, can lead to an outbreak in one part of a country.
2. If an outbreak or simultaneous outbreaks are not controlled this is called an upsurge and generally affects an entire region.
3. If an upsurge is not controlled then a plague can develop.
4. A major plague exists when two or more regions are affected simultaneously.