By George Grant.
London, 16 November:
Reports that Ghadames has been overrun by swarms of locusts are over-exaggerated, Libya’s national locust director has . . .[restrict]told the Libya Herald.
Local media has carried reports claiming that locust-control teams are fighting a losing battle against plagues of locusts laying waste to crops and other vegetation in the area.
“They are a group, not a swarm, and there is no real damage to crops”, said Khaled El-Gadgoud, national locust director at the Ministry of Agriculture. “They entered Libya the day before yesterday, most likely blown in from Algeria by some high winds from Tunisia”.
“We have a team to check the area, and the locusts are scattering and dispersing”, he added.
Although the immediate threat has receded, Gadgoud cautioned the locust risk for this year had not yet passed. “It all depends on the weather, and the wind is the key factor”, he said. “Sometimes it is with you and sometimes it is against you; it depends on the direction”.
On 13 November, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation put out a warning that Libya was amongst the countries at risk of swarms forming in the region, adding that the situation “remains serious”.
Southwest Libya is a breeding area for locusts and the country is particularly vulnerable this year owing to the serious damage done to locust-control equipment as a result of last year’s revolution.
Just 22,000 hectares of infested land were sprayed in the southwest this year, out of an at-risk area of some 50,000 hectares.
Regular ground surveys by national teams in Algeria and Libya were also disrupted by the upheavals in Libya, with Algerian teams unable to check areas close to the border and work on the Libyan side much reduced altogether.
In May, Libya was hit by a serious infestation, when tens of millions of locusts laid waste to swathes of cropland before moving south into Niger and Mali. The plague was expected to return to Libya around October to November.
Locust infestations were also reported northwest of Ghat in January and, with limited resources after the revolution, preventative control measures were restricted during the key egg-laying period of February to April.
During a serious plague, a swarm can stretch for several hundred square kilometres comprising billions of locusts, each capable of eating its own weight in food a day.
The desert locust is a species of Acridoidea, or short-horned grasshopper, that can form dense and highly mobile swarms of adults or bands of hoppers (wingless nymphs). Females lay between 80 and 158 eggs and can lay several times in their three to five month lifespan. A one square kilometre swarm of these animals eats the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. [/restrict]