Desert locusts head for winter breeding grounds

Most summer crops have now been successfully harvested in the Sahel of West Africa but control operations continue against swarms of desert locusts that could eventually threaten the fields of forthcoming spring crops in northwest Africa, says FAO.

According to the October Desert Locust Bulletin, small swarms that escaped control operations have moved north along the coast of Mauritania to southwestern Morocco on route to winter breeding grounds. Some of these swarms laid eggs which have already hatched and young wingless locusts are forming hopper bands. It is feared that additional laying and hatching will occur. In Morocco the authorities are closely monitoring movements in the south and will undertake the necessary control operations to protect fertile areas such as the Souss Valley which produces key cash crops.

Strong southerly winds in mid-October carried several swarms north from Mali and the Niger to central Algeria and northwestern Libya. Elsewhere in West Africa, late reports say that breeding occurred on a larger scale than expected in central and northern Mali during September with some swarms moving in a northwest direction toward Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco.

Despite extensive control operations carried out in Yemen, significant breeding was evident in a large area of the interior bordering the desert wastes of the Empty Quarter. Those adults escaping detection and control are expected to form small swarms that are likely to move as the area becomes drier towards the country's Red Sea coastal plains and those of Saudi Arabia. If rain falls on these coastal areas, laying could occur, though the risk of large swarms is reported to be small.

Elsewhere, summer breeding decreased along the Indo-Pakistan border and limited control operations were successful in Rajasthan, India.

8 November 1996

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