Desert Locust outbreak in Yemen poses risk to neighbouring countries

Locusts can have devastating effect on crops, especially in vulnerable areas

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 13 April 2016

Desert Locust infestation in Yemen has emerged as a serious threat to crops in the entire region, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned.

The Desert Locust is one of about a dozen species of short-horned grasshoppers (Acridoidea). These insects change their behaviour and form swarms of adults or bands of hoppers (wingless nymphs). The swarms are dense and highly mobile.

In a bid to control the situation and save crops, the food agency of the United Nations has exhorted Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran to mobilise their survey and control teams and take necessary measures to prevent the destructive insects from breeding further.

Strict vigilance is also needed in Morocco and Algeria, especially in areas south of the Atlas Mountains, which can become the possible breeding ground for the Desert Locust that have gathered in parts of western Sahara, Morocco and Mauritania.

Cyclones trigger locust presence

Groups of juvenile, wingless hoppers and adults as well as hopper bands and at least one swarm formed on the southern coast of Yemen in March where heavy rains associated with tropical cyclones Chapala and Megh occurred in November 2015.

“The extent of (the) current Desert Locust breeding in Yemen is not well known since survey teams are unable to access most areas. However, as vegetation dries out along the coast more groups, bands and small swarms are likely to form,” said Keith Cressman, FAO’s senior locust forecasting officer.

He added that a moderate risk exists that infestation will move into the interior parts of southern Yemen, perhaps reaching spring breeding areas in the interior of central Saudi Arabia and northern Oman.

There is a possibility that the movement of locusts can continue to the United Arab Emirates where a few small swarms may appear and transit through the country before arriving in areas of recent rainfall in southeast Iran.

The FAO warned that in northwest Africa, small groups and perhaps a few small swarms could find suitable breeding areas in Morocco (Draa Valley), Mauritania (near Zouerate) and Algeria.

In addition, some small-scale Desert Locust breeding is likely to occur in southwestern Libya, but the numbers should remain low.

Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day—about two grams every day. Locusts can have devastating effect on crops, especially in vulnerable areas.

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