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Desert locust threat looms in south

A small swarm of locusts can eat as much food in a day as 2,500 people

The threat posed by desert locusts has increased in the past few days as they have begun laying their eggs in the south of the country, the Desert Locusts Control Centre (DLCC) in the Ministry of Agriculture has said.

The DLCC said on Tuesday that desert locusts have been found in the southern governorates of Hadhramaut and al-Mahrah, and might head for a third governorate.

In late April, the DLCC said mature desert locusts descended on a 30 sq km area in Thamoud, a desert area in Hadhramaut, carrying millions of eggs.

Abdu Farei al-Rumaih, director-general of the DLCC, told IRIN that locust eggs have hatched, and locusts are now to be found in high densities in over 150 spots in the desert area. He estimated that there are 200 locusts in each square metre, while each spot ranges between three and 100 square metres.

"These locusts are still in their first phase [an immature state], and we asked our teams to stop eradicating them until they enter their third phase [a more mature state] and gather in one area," al-Rumaih said.

The official said the swarms are threatening grazing fields, on which Bedouins depend to feed their herds of sheep and camels.

''These locusts are still in their first phase, and we asked our teams to stop eradicating them until they enter their third phase and gather in one area.''

"The Bedouins have agreed not to use the grazing fields for three months until they grow, but unfortunately they were surprised by these invading insects," he said, adding that they might be deprived of this year's crop.

According to al-Rumaih, the specialists will use backpack sprayers to combat the new swarms, as shrubs and grass are now over one-and-a-half metres high.

First visitation since 1953

Desert locusts have also spread to coastal areas in the governorate of al-Mahrah, which has not witnessed locust invasions since 1953.

The DLCC suspects that these swarms have come to Yemen from Somalia. They have descended on a 70km area, but specialists did not want to combat them for fear of destroying bee farms.

"Farmers couldn't evacuate their bees from the area, and so our teams couldn't fight the swarms lest they affect the bees," al-Rumaih said. He warned that the swarms could head for the governorate of Shabwa as well as Hadhramaut, where they would pose a threat to crops.

Al-Rumaih also said locals failed to notify his centre about the invasion. "This area has not witnessed locust invasions for decades," he added.

In March, migratory locusts descended upon 27 sq km of farmland in the western province of al-Hudaidah, but field teams managed to control the situation.

More on locusts

ETHIOPIA: Locust threat in the east

 ERITREA-YEMEN: New locust swarms threaten crops

 YEMEN: Specialists fight new locust swarms

 HORN OF AFRICA-YEMEN: Country put on alert to combat locust outbreak

Early warning

Specialists say a small swarm of locusts can eat as much food in a day as 2,500 people. A swarm can have up to 80 million adult locusts in each square kilometre, and is capable of destroying a crop field in seconds. Nearly all crops, and non-crop plants are at risk.

Following warnings by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that swarms of locusts were coming in from Eritrea, Yemen's Ministry of Agriculture set up an emergency plan to control them. This includes sending teams to fumigate affected areas.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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