Africa suffers plague of locusts

Pest diet: In one day, a single locust eats its own weight in food. © Getty

Covering an area the size of a city and eating every green thing in their path, billions of locusts have been swarming across large parts of Africa. Scientists are blaming climate change.

What’s happening

The UN warns millions will face hunger if the invasion of the desert locusts is not stopped. The worst plague since the 1980s has now reached Uganda and Tanzania, after devastating Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. The UN says there is only a “small window” of time to prevent catastrophe.

Find out more

They have plagued farmers for thousands of years and are mentioned in the Bible, but it is only recently that scientists have begun to understand the strange behaviour of locusts.

Most of the time, the insect avoids its own species. But very occasionally, something triggers a dramatic change. Heavy rain in the desert brings them together to feed on fresh green shoots. They reproduce, change colour, and begin to migrate in enormous numbers.

With further rain predicted, the UN warns that the population of locusts could skyrocket to 400 times its current size in the next few months. At its peak, it could cover 10% of the total land surface of the world and affect 20% of humanity.

Is the climate crisis to blame?

Some say…

Yes, say some. Instead of one cyclone every few years flooding deserts where locusts breed, we are seeing multiple storms in each season. This doesn’t just mean more frequent swarms, but bigger swarms lasting for longer. Global warming is creating a perfect habitat for a permanent locust plague.

Others think…

No, others believe. Major locust swarms are rare events that happen once in a generation, and there are billions of people alive today who will not remember the last one. Events like this may appear new and scary but they are, in fact, as old as human civilisation.

You Decide

  1. Do some disasters get more news coverage than others?

Activities

  1. Design a poster to raise money to help farmers affected by the locusts in Africa.

Some People Say...

“They covered the surface of the soil until the ground was black with them. They devoured all the greenstuff in the land and all the fruit of the trees.”

The Bible, Book of Exodus 10:14-15

What do you think?

Word Watch

Desert locusts
A species of grasshopper and the most devastating migratory (moving from one area to another) pest in the world.
Kenya
Kenya in east Africa has seen the worst swarms in 70 years.
Dramatic change
They grow larger brains and smaller legs, and turn yellow to ward off predators. They also become cannibals, feeding off each other.

Subjects

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