The locusts are coming
The locusts are coming
JEDDAH: DIANA AL-JASSEM
Thursday 7 March 2013
Swarms of desert locusts are expected to invade Saudi Arabia at the end of March and the beginning of April, posing a major threat to farmers and agriculture.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization confirmed that the desert locusts originated in Sudan and then moved to the southern part of Egypt including Cairo. According to reports, it has been eight years since there has been such a massive invasion of locusts in Egypt.
The reports indicated that the locusts will arrive in Saudi Arabia on various air currents.
There are currently 10 swarms in Egypt, each estimated at between 40 to 80 million locusts. Each female locust breeds every 12 to 15 days and lays about 150 eggs that usually hatch after two weeks.
Adnan Al-Khan, director of the Saudi Center for Locust Control and Research, Ministry of Agriculture, said: “These desert locusts are still immature and are forming into swarms. These swarms are expected to reach the north coast of Saudi Arabia and start hatching there,” he said. The ministry said exploratory teams have been formed to monitor the movement of the swarms. He said two swarms arrived in the Kingdom at the end of February in Tabuk, Rabigh and Umluj, and reproduced into 23 million locusts.
According to the ministry's report, locusts have been spotted in 99 locations in Rabigh and 72 locations in Badr. The ministry said that several exploratory teams have been dispatched to the western, northern, and eastern areas this spring. “The most threatened regions are Riyadh, Qassim, Tabuk, Madinah and Hail,” said Al-Khan.
The locusts are expected in Ma'an, Tafileh, Aqaba and the southern Jordan Valley region. They are being tackled by the Jordan Armed Forces, Desert patrol and the Public Security Department.
Hussain Al-Qahtani, spokesman of the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), said desert locust swarms breed every year. “The only problem this year is that the wind movement changed, which took the locusts into Egypt and now Saudi Arabia,” he said.
He said the PME will keep the Agriculture Ministry updated with wind conditions. “We contacted the municipality yesterday and told them that the movement of the wind has changed and will now be coming from the north and east borders,” he said.
Al-Qahtani warned people about eating locusts. “This might be dangerous especially when these locusts are already sprayed with insecticide,” he said.
Majida Abu Ras, deputy executive director of the Saudi Environment Society, said her organization and the Jeddah municipality have already started procedures to control the spread of the locusts. “Ground control operations are divided into two stages.
The first stage has started already with the municipality and the society spraying all plants, so the locusts won't be able to destroy them,” she said. “As soon as the desert locusts arrive the municipality will spray them.”