Locust Attack | Control | Origin | UPSC Prelims 2020


India in danger zone as locusts breed 400 times than usual

      WHY IN NEWS:

Attacks by desert locusts attack are threatening India, Iran and Pakistan, as well as the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region



For PRELIMS go through important pesticides and the nature of winds . This can be asked in Prelims !

For MAINS look at the windup . You will find sufficient points to sum up your answers .


  Desert locusts are breeding 400 times than usual due to favourable climatic conditions, according to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

Desert locusts are multiplying at 400 times than usual due to favourable climatic conditions. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Desert locusts

  A plague of locusts is not only associated with crop failure and starvation, but also with rodents who feed on the insects and spread germs and disease.

  • Already 38,308 hectares in 22 out of 33 districts of Rajasthan are under locust attack.
  • The Horn of Africa is facing the worst desert locust crisis in over 25 years- FAO.
  • Meanwhile, Kenya and Iran are facing their most serious locust crisis in 70 years.

The FAO's locust update between May 1-20. Source: FAOThe FAO’s locust update between May 1-20. Source: FAO


  • Heavy rainfall in the central and eastern region in counties like Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Iran, Afghanistan have helped in the breeding of the locusts.

  It is rare for locusts to reach all the way to Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh where they can find green areas to feed on.

  • This will have a huge impact on food security.
  • “The female locust lays eggs in mostly sandy soil.
  • If temperature is high and there is no rainfall, the breeding isn’t successful,” .
  • Spring breeding continues in southern Iran and southwest Pakistan where control operations are in progress against hopper groups and bands as well as an increasing number of adult groups,” .
  • As vegetation dries out, more groups and swarms will form and move from these areas to the summer breeding areas along both sides of the India-Pakistan border .

The FAO's forecast for desert locusts till July. Photo: FAO

The FAO’s forecast for desert locusts till July. Photo: FAO

  • “Good rains are predicted during the first half of June along the India-Pakistan border that would allow egg-laying to occur.


  Winds are the major carrier of desert locusts that are currently devastating crops and green areas in India’s northwest and central regions.

  • “The winds that enter India to the north of the Western Ghats split into north-westerlies continuing towards central and northeastern India in one branch and towards the southeast in another branch.
  • Excessive rainfall in the affected regions that helped them sustain and multiply.
  • “Quick summer showers favour their phase transformation, which means they can get together to form huge swarms
  • The locusts can travel around 150-200 kilometres during the day, resting at night in trees and bushes.


  • Locusts are considered to be among the most dangerous pests known to humanity.
  • They reproduce fast — 20-fold in three months.
  • But they are most lethal because they can eat through large swathes of crops.
  • Adult locusts can eat their own weight every day and a swarm can consume vast quantities of food.
  • They thus pose a threat to human food security.


  • When they finally invaded India, the government was forced to use the most lethal pesticides, ORGANOPHOSPHATES (OPS), which will eventually leech into the desert’s waterbodies as well as the next crop.
  • Organophosphates are a group of chemicals that were initially developed as human nerve agents during the 1930s and 1940s to be used by Nazi Germany during World War II.
  • They were later adapted for use as insecticides.
  • OPs are known to leech into water bodies close to agricultural fields.
  • This can spell disaster for humans, plants and animals.
  • “We have not used such a high amount of Chlorpyrifos, an OP, in such a short span of time.
  • This could potentially damage the environment,”


  • Ten types of chemicals divided into three categories are recommended to be used for controlling locusts by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


  • The first category is mycoinsecticide (for instance, Metarhizium acridum).
  • This is of low risk to non-target organisms including birds and reptiles which ingest the treated locusts.


  • The second category is insect growth regulators (like diflubenzuron, teflubenzuron and triflumuron).
  • It is very low human toxicity and is less hazardous in comparison to neurotoxic insecticides although there are some adverse effects on certain non-target organisms, especially aquatic arthropods.


  • The OPs should be the last resort, according to the FAO.
  • “The first two categories would have been effective if we would have detected locust infestations early and acted on them.
  • But we acted late and ended up using OPs, that are effective but hazardous,”.

  Chlorpyrifos, the OP creates a motility rate by 50 per cent within three hours.

  • Another 30 per cent locusts get paralysed and the remaining 10 per cent fall unconscious.
  • The remainder die after flying within 2 km.


  • The Thar desert is a rich ecosystem.
  • It has a number of salty lakes.

  These are annually visited by migratory birds of many species.

  • Indigenous birds also depend on them.
  • “It is inevitable that birds will die in the next migratory season as these OPs must have leeched into the water bodies,”.

Crops laced with chemicals can impact exports.

      IASbhai WINDUP: 

  • “The current situation — an upsurge with the potential to become a regional plague — represents an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region and could lead to further suffering, displacement and potential conflict,” – FAO


  • Besides delayed government action, there are other reasons for the excessive use of OPs.
  • The locust watch centres (LWCs), the designated government bodies to tackle locust attacks, are usually on the boards of farmer groups.
  • OPs are also supplied free of cost.
  • “The locust is a robust pest.
  • Farmers want immediate and effective solutions to deal with them,” .


  • “There should be a regular meeting with Pakistan every month to manage locust attacks,”.
  • “If Pakistan would have controlled it better then it would not have created mayhem in India.


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