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‘Extremely Alarming’: New Swarms of Locusts Ravage Africa, Middle East

03-26-2020
A farmer looks back as she walks through swarms of desert locusts feeding on her crops, in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
A farmer looks back as she walks through swarms of desert locusts feeding on her crops, in Katitika village, Kitui county, Kenya (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Video online shows millions of locusts descending upon the Middle Eastern country of Oman as swarms as big as 37 miles continue to plague Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Dominic Abu Hana, a presenter on a Lebanese news network, tweeted a video on March 15 of a flood of locusts in Oman. The video now has more than 4.5 million views.

Hana mistakenly called the insects ants in his post, but Omani officials later confirmed with journalist Hassan Hassan that they “are actually ‘small-size’ locusts.”

Africa and parts of the Middle East have been fighting plagues of locusts since late January. The insects present a major threat to agriculture and food supplies.

“When the conditions are right, the population can explode very fast. Locusts travel by wind, and they can travel at least 150-200 km a day,” said Nasser Al Shamsi, Oman’s Director of Plant Protection Services at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

“A single female locust can lay up to 100 to 300 eggs,” he told the Times of Oman. “The period of maturity of the larvae inside the eggs is about two weeks, and the problem is that when they hatch, very large numbers of insects are formed. You can imagine the damage thousands of locusts can cause.”

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said on Tuesday the situation is “extremely alarming” in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia “where widespread breeding is in progress and new swarms are starting to form, representing an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods at the beginning of the upcoming cropping season.”

New swarms are also forming in South Sudan, Yemen, and Iran. The government agency says the situation is under control in Sudan, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Pakistan, and India.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated the situation because it is slowing down the delivery of pesticides that can kill the insects.

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