Argentina Combats Worst Locust Plague in 60 Years
Argentina is facing a locust plague the likes of which it is hasn't seen in decades, country officials said Monday.
Argentina's agricultural inspection agency, Senasa, has strengthened efforts to eradicate the insect swarms, but to little avail, The New York Times reports. Within a few days, the locusts may take flight in a massive horde that threatens to destroy the country's crop fields and grasslands.
"It's the worst explosion in the last 60 years," said Senasa's chief of vegetative protection Diego Quiroga to the Times. "It's impossible to eradicate; the plague has already established itself. We're just acting to make sure it's the smallest it can be and does the least damage possible."
Since June of 2015, locust swarms have spread over a region roughly the size of Delaware. Last fall, farmers reported seeing insect clouds four miles long and two miles high, according to a representative from the Rural Confederations of Argentina.
The plague can be blamed on the planet's altering climate. Warmer and wetter seasons in Argentina have resulted in ideal breeding conditions for the insects.
It only takes ten days for a larvae to mature and take flight, and fumigators are finding it impossible to contain the ever-growing plague.
Climate change has increased the threat of locust plagues worldwide. The Food and Agriculture Organization issued a warning in November that rain conditions could generate destructive swarms in northwest Africa and Yemen.
"There is clearly an impact in our country, too. We are definitely being affected," said Quiroga to the Times.
According to National Geographic, locusts are similar to grasshoppers but exhibit unique behavior. When plant life is abundant, the insects enter a behavioral phase which causes them to congregate into large swarms and devour fields.
Enormous swarms can contain between 40 to 80 million locusts in less than half a square mile, and can stretch up to 460 square miles. Each individual locust can eat its own body weight in food in a day, meaning a swarm may consume 423 million pounds of vegetation daily.
Farmers who encounter swarms have been encouraged to call a hotline for help.
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