March 1, 2007

Locusts threaten crops along Red Sea coast

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization keeps records of locust populations, and has identified "a developing and potentially dangerous situation" arising from second-generation locust infestations in a region straddling the border between Sudan and Eritrea.

Late instar hopper bands and newly fledged adults are present in pearl millet crops in wadis - dry river beds - and in natural vegetation on the coastal plains. "Within a week, the majority of these populations will become adults and form small immature swarms," UN officials warn.

The hopper bands can transform into mature swarms that are capable of travelling hundreds of kilometers. They usually travel in directions where vegetation is growing, which could be in any direction, north to the plains by the Red Sea, or south and west into the Eritrean hills. Crops can easily be devastated by locusts.

Officials plan to implement ground and aerial control operations in both countries and were "to try to reduce the scale of the expected migration," according to FAO.

NASA image of breeding areas near the Red Sea

Learn about the locust - simple explanation

Learn about the locust - detailed, academic

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