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Science News: The returning threat of locust swarms

– K.J., Editor

Many countries in East Africa and Western Asia have been severely affected by the coronavirus pandemic and famine. Unfortunately, these countries are facing another serious problem with locust swarms that are growing much worse every day. Locusts are insects that usually live alone, but can gather into huge groups called swarms. Locusts are herbivores that eat crops like grains and vegetables. In fact, a swarm of 40 million locusts can eat the same amount of food in a single day as 3 million people.

The first locust swarm of 2020 occurred in January and February causing widespread damage. However, a second and more damaging swarm is happening right now. This spring, the locusts breeding season, locust alerts were issued for countries in East Africa, Yemen, and Southern Iran, where much more destruction is expected. Unfortunately, due to the measures being taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus, the locust swarm is not being adequately monitored or controlled.

Efforts to control the locust swarms involve the spraying of pesticides by airplanes, which can kill adult locusts in about one day. However, as local Kenyan locust trackers have noted, to truly stop the growth of swarms it is important to prevent the mature locusts from laying eggs. Therefore, the trackers use mobile applications to track swarms and help direct the pesticide-carrying airplanes to locations where the application of pesticides will be most effective.

To spread awareness, augmented reality (AR) resources are available for both desktop computers and mobile devices. Hopefully, these resources will increase attention from the international community, so experts and others can help to solve this issue quickly, before more people suffer from the combined impact of the pandemic and locust swarms.

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