Hordes of locusts, the cousins of grasshoppers, have migrated from countries located in the Horn of Africa and have once again arrived and multiplied profusely across Saudi Arabia. Environmental conditions and thriving agricultural areas have resulted in the locusts' ability to reproduce and spread, reaping havoc everywhere they land.
Saudi authorities are attempting to withstand this season's "attack" and crop devastation by doubling the daily spraying of insecticides. The locusts are reported to have spread throughout the central, eastern, and western regions of the kingdom including Riyadh, Jazan, Mecca, Qassim, and more.
Director of combating locusts and plagues at the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water Mohammad Al Shammrani told Arabs News that they have been combating these locust swarms on a daily basis since the beginning of January.
"We exterminated the first generation of the swarms, which attacked Jazan all the way to the Makkah region. We targeted two swarms of locusts in Qunfodah and Al-Leith," Al Shammrani added.
Multiple Middle Eastern and African countries have been affected by these swarms. The outbreak began in the countries along the Horn of Africa which include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Somalia, and Ethiopia. With the high-speed winds carrying them in different directions, the locusts were able to invade many Middle Eastern and some South Asian countries as well.
The invaded countries include:
- Saudi Arabia
This widespread is the reason behind the intensified spraying of insecticides over all borders and coasts of the kingdom during winter and spring.
During the same time in 2019, Saudi Arabia faced a similar crisis. In an attempt to make the best out of the situation, residents of the kingdom began consuming the locusts for their protein-filled bodies. At the time, however, they were advised to halt this consumption due to the extreme amount of pesticides found on the locusts.
Videos capturing the insect invasion went viral on social media - as they have again this year - and show acres of land entirely covered by the creatures.
Due to Uganda's fragility, the United Nations decided to send in military troops to help with on-ground pesticide spraying; two planes were employed for aerial spraying. Kenya itself has not had such a major locust outbreak in seven decades.
What exactly is a locust?
Locusts are essentially the cousins of grasshoppers, i.e. they look similar but have the ability to change their behaviors. Generally, locusts tend to live a solitary life, and in doing so are harmless. However, when the environmental conditions are just right and crops and greenery are thriving, so do locusts. During these perfect times, the insects tend to meet, breed, and gather into "thick, mobile, ravenous swarms."
This is when devastation strikes. Locusts can cause serious damage and devastation to crops and agriculture, often leading to famine and starvation.
The desert locust, indigenous to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, is considered to be one of the worst. When in swarm formation, they can cover 1,191.4 square kilometers in size and pack between 40 to 80 million locusts into less than 1.3 square kilometers. A single locust can eat at least its weight in plants every single day, meaning an army can easily wipe out entire farmlands in just days.
They vary in size depending on their age; their length ranges between about 1.3cm to about 8cm. Their life generally spans several months. Locusts are speedy creatures for their size. They can travel up to 19km/h and can cover grounds of up to 150 kilometers per day.
These creatures are high in protein and fat content, so consuming them isn't the worst idea especially when desperation prevails... unless they're covered in pesticides, then it becomes a really bad idea.