Over the last few days, swarms of locusts have been sighted in urban areas of Rajasthan, which is unusual. Swarms have also been reported from parts of Madhya Pradesh and Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. The first swarms were sighted along the India-Pakistan border on April 11, months ahead of the usual time of arrival.
What are locusts and when are they are sighted in India?
The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is a short-Horned grasshopper. Innocuous when solitary, locusts undergo a behavioural change when their population builds up rapidly. They enter the ‘gregarious phase’ by forming huge swarms that can travel up to 150 km per day, eating up every bit of greenery on their way. These insects feed on a large variety of crops. If not controlled, locust swarms can threaten the food security of a country. At present countries in the Horn of Africa such as Ethiopia and Somalia are witnessing one of the worst locusts attacks in the last 25 years.
In India, locusts are normally sighted during July- October along the Pakistan border. Last year, parts of Western Rajasthan and Northern Gujarat reported swarms that caused damage to growing rabi crops. These were the first swarms reported in India since 1997. This year, the first sightings of small groups were reported early — on April 11 — by scientists of the Agriculture Ministry’s Locust Warning Organization (LWO), from Sri Ganganagar and Jaisalmer districts of Rajasthan.
Why are locusts being seen in urban areas?
Locusts are being seen in areas not historically associated with such sightings — Jaipur, MP’s Gwalior, Morena and Sheopur, and recently stray swarms in Maharashtra’s Amravati, Nagpur and Wardha.
K L Gurjar, Deputy Director of LWO, said there being no crops in the fields, the locusts have moved across states attracted by green cover. “The swarms were aided by high-speed wind and thus they made their way to Jaipur,” he said. At present there are three to four swarms in Rajasthan, another two or three in Madhya Pradesh, from where a small group has migrated to Maharashtra, which Gurjar said would not be very difficult to control.