Desert Locusts In Uganda, What You Need To Know

Speaking in the Morning Link show on Top television on Monday Morning, the State minister for Karamoja Moses Kizige cofirmed that desert locusts from Kenya had on Sunday entered Uganda through Amudat district in North Eastern Uganda. He said more were anticipated to enter the country today and other coming days. The insects destroy crops and can lead to massive famine if not fully contained in time.

But what do you need to know about these locusts?

While locusts and grasshoppers belong to the same group of insects called Acredidae, or the short-horned grasshoppers, they have significant differences. Grasshoppers have only one life form, while locusts have two distinct forms under natural conditions. Also, grasshoppers do not swarm or fly long distances.

Locusts can either lead a solitary life or a gregarious one. Solitary life is in areas of its known breeding sites and natural occurrence. During this phase, their population is low and, therefore, they do not pose a risk to agricultural or pasture land. They are usually brown in this phase. 

Monitoring

It’s in the gregarious phase that the locusts band to form swarms that can be devastating to crops and pasture. In this phase, the morphology, behavior and life cycle change. 

The locusts enter the gregarious phase if there is sufficient rainfall that guarantees enough vegetation for the young ones, and the ground is moist for egg development. The insects then breed and grow their numbers. With the population being high, they change their behaviour and aggregate, eating and moving together en masse. 

The gregarious desert locust adults are pink in colour when not yet ready to mate and lay eggs (immature) but turn yellow when mature. 

To prevent them from progressing to the gregarious phase, measures are taken to reduce their numbers. This is why continuous monitoring is paramount. 

80 Million

The life cycle of the locust consists of eggs, nymphs and adult. The eggs take about two weeks during favourable conditions to hatch into nymphs. Both nymphs and adults are feeders. 

However, the nymphs (also known as hoppers) do not have wings and become adults 30-40 days after hatching. 

The young adults take about three weeks before they are ready to mate and lay eggs. Adults live for three to five months.

Locust swarms can fly at a speed of more than 15km/h and can cover a distance of more than 100km a day, staying in the air as long as there is no green vegetation sighted. These swarms can be as large as 80 million individuals. Swarming occurs during the day. 

Since the insects prefer warm-hot areas, it’s expected that cold areas will not be affected.

Animal Feeds

The public is discouraged from sending old images or those copied from websites and passing them off as recent. This chase for “likes” may have devastating consequences. Control of the pests is highly dependent on correct reporting. 

Chemical control should be managed centrally; there’s no need for an individual farmer to use such means as it may not work. 

Locust swarms can fly at a speed of more than 15km/h and can cover a distance of more than 100km a day, staying in the air as long as there is no green vegetation sighted. These swarms can be as large as 80 million individuals. Swarming occurs during the day. 

Making loud noises scares away the locusts and increases the rate at which they spread.

Unsprayed swarms can be a good source of food for humans and animals. Locusts have high protein content and unique nutritive elements. Innovative companies that make animal feeds would do well to harvest them as a cheap protein source.

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