Even before the coronavirus spread, locusts were heard of. But the locust issue was hidden a lot due to the coronavirus. The locusts have recently invaded neighboring India.
Seeing the horror of the attack, the question arose in the minds of many, is this locust? What harm can they do? What can we do against them?
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Locusts are insects that we know to be grasshoppers, but not grasshoppers at all. Some even think of it as crickets. That too is not true. Although homogenous, locusts differ from the other two insects.
Locusts are mainly desert insects. But the thing that most clearly sets them apart from other insects is the two stages of their life. The condition in which it is normal is called the solitary phase. In this condition, they live alone. But if the environment is favorable, that is, the abundance of food, the amount of moisture in the climate, and the balance of temperature, they go to the next step called the Gregarius phase. In this case, the locust becomes a completely different animal. As their brains increase in size, major structural changes occur, and their behavior and eating habits change radically. This change in the locust is as much about the cartoon Pokemon characters changing themselves.
While the locusts in the solitaire phase are not a cause for concern, they are grouped together in the Gregorian episode. During this time their appetite and demand for food also increase. At the same time, their agility increases, and a huge change in endurance is observed. It is difficult to say exactly when this episode of theirs changes. This change can be seen at any time in a favorable environment. Favorable environment When there is a rainy environment, there are lots of green trees in the vicinity, and the amount of water in the soil increases, then this change happens very fast. Each locust together forms a group called the swarm and is able to disrupt everything in its path. At this time they can destroy all kinds of crops starting from leaves, stems, flowers, fruits, seeds.
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But how big can a locust swarm be? Surprisingly, the swarm found in Kenya in 2020 has an area of 2,400 square kilometers! There may be more than 150 million locusts per square kilometer. Each swarm is capable of swallowing the food of about 2,500 people a day. And for good reason, it is said to be the most harmful animal to the world’s economy. It is most prevalent in the African continent, the Middle East of Asia, Pakistan, and the western desert regions of India.
However, this locust attack is not new this time. Its invasion has been found in many civilizations for thousands of years. Even in 2400 BC, locust was carved out of stone in Egyptian civilization, giving the idea of its invasion in antiquity. Various scriptures also mention this attack.
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But this time the attack is much wider than any time in the past. The cause of this can be indirectly attributed to climate change. Due to global warming, the waters of the Indian Ocean have become warmer and as a result, East Africa has received heavy rainfall this time. Extreme levels of flood danger were announced in late August in Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. And this flood has created a heavenly environment for these insects in this area.
After a dramatic increase in numbers, the Gregorian season of insects began and spread throughout East Africa, with the winds blowing eastward, spreading to Iran, Pakistan, and India.
This problem has become more worrying due to cyclone Amman. Amman’s wind speed is moving the locust swarm further east, and the outbreak has already been reported in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Delhi in India.
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The first solution to this problem is to spray pesticides. Whether it is on the ground or in the sky by helicopter or drone. But the problem here is that the pesticides are highly toxic and even if the insects are controlled, there are still environmental and health risks. The bigger problem is that the level of pesticides has to be increased a lot, which can increase the chances of damage. Second, natural pesticides do not have a detrimental effect on nature, but they do not have a quick effect on the insect.
Even if it is removed, for now, it may not be a permanent solution. China has sent ducks to Pakistan as a solution to this problem. Even if the ducks are a little slow, this locust can do a good deal of damage. But due to the agility, it was not possible to make up for the damage done by the locusts.
Although confusing, many countries have been solving this problem by eating this locust. Locusts are a very popular food, especially in the Middle East and Africa. Historically, these locusts have destroyed entire crops many times in these countries. However, locusts do not lag behind in terms of nutrition. This locust is ahead of chicken, fish, and egg milk in terms of protein. In Islam, locusts are considered halal, and in Judaism, they are considered ‘kosher’ or legal, so there is no impediment to eating them religiously in both religions. However, it is not possible to actually eliminate it by eating. They are so numerous that it is difficult to calculate how much you can eat to prevent them from spreading. In addition, pesticides have been sprayed on them in many areas, which also poses a health risk.
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In such a situation a groundbreaking idea came to the mind of a Pakistani government official named Mohammad Khurshid and a biotechnologist named Johar Ali. When the idea was first tested in Okara, Pakistan, it was implemented on a large scale across the country. What was this idea?
The Pakistani government told the farmers, who were mainly affected by the attack, to catch the insects, and they would get 20 Pakistani rupees per kg of locusts. These insects are very easy to catch at night with nets. Locusts usually fly during the day and rest on the ground at night. On the first day of the announcement, farmers in Okara district collected 8 tonnes of locusts, and many farmers earned up to Rs 20,000 a night.
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These locusts are subsequently processed and used as poultry feed in poultry farms. This incident has become a curse for Pakistan’s poultry industry. Under normal circumstances, the protein portion of chicken feed is supplemented with soybeans which are mainly import dependent. Soybeans contain 50% protein by weight. On the other hand, the government of Pakistan is giving these poultry farms at several times lower prices. Locust contains 60% of its weight by protein. The project is also very lucrative for the Pakistani government, which is crying foul over foreign exchange, as it does not have to spend so much on importing soybeans.
This unimaginable solution is being welcomed not only in Pakistan but all over the world. Even India’s RSS in Pakistan has praised Pakistan’s work and called on the government in India to do the same. Only time will tell how effective this idea will be in dealing with this terrifying locust attack.
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