18 December 2003, Rome -- After a
summer season of good rains and recent favourable rainfall,
Desert Locust populations continue to increase and may threaten
winter crops in northwest Africa and along the Red Sea, FAO
Swarms started to form in
Mauritania where breeding continues in many areas. During the
first ten days of December, 12 swarms of immature locusts were
seen east of Nouakchott, while three other swarms flew over the
capital itself on 4-6 December, according to a new report by the
FAO Locust Group.
More egg-laying and
egg-hatching has occurred east of Nouakchott and in the north of
the country near the mining town of Zouerate. Hopper bands are
forming there as well as in other parts of northwestern
Mauritania, the report also said.
Western Sahara, mature groups of adults are present from the
Mauritanian border to Bir Anzarane. In this area, as well as in
northern Mauritania, low temperatures may delay locust
maturation during the winter.
Mauritania, so far nearly 20,000 ha were treated with pesticides
during ground control operations while some 2,400 ha were
treated in Western Sahara, according to recent information.
Although locust numbers are declining in
Mali and Niger, group of hoppers and young adults remain in the
traditional breeding areas of Tamesna and Adrar des Iforas
(Mali) and in the southeastern Air Mountains (Niger).
"Bands are forming in Mali where
one swarm has been reported so far," the report said.
More swarms may develop and move northwards, threatening
northwest African countries.
Middle East at risk
dangerous situation is reported in Sudan where a mature swarm
arrived on the Red Sea coast from nearby outbreak areas near the
Atbara River in the interior of northeastern Sudan.
More adults groups and a few swarms are expected to
appear on the Red Sea coastal plains of Sudan and lay eggs that
will hatch in the coming weeks.
groups and swarms may also continue across the Red Sea to Saudi
Arabia where locusts were seen laying eggs on the coastal plains
between Jeddah and Yenbo.
Still in Saudi
Arabia, some groups moved towards the hinterland in areas close
to the towns of Medina and Taif where they laid eggs.
"This is very unusual at this time of the
year," the FAO report said. Hatching has already
commenced in some areas and hoppers are forming bands.
Control operations treated some 3,600 ha
during the first week of December in Saudi Arabia and operations
continue in Sudan.
FAO experts fear an
extension of the locust threat in the Middle East if good rains
fall along the Red Sea coasts during the winter.
Desert Locust plagues
A Desert Locust is a grasshopper that modifies its
behaviour and appearance in response to environmental
Desert Locust is normally found
in the solitary phase at very low densities in the desert in
about 20 countries between Mauritania and India.
When rainfall creates favourable breeding conditions,
the locusts can multiply rapidly, concentrate and gregarize.
This means that they act collectively, forming swarms of adults
and marching bands of hoppers (wingless immatures).
Swarms are highly mobile, flying many hundreds or
thousands of kilometres between summer, winter and spring
Plagues develop when the
locusts find ideal conditions in a sequence of seasonal breeding
areas. This leads to rapid multiplication and increasingly large
swarms that also invade countries outside the traditional
Crop damage by swarms can
be devastating. The years between plagues are referred to as a
FAO's Locust Group
receives information and data from national locust units
carrying out field surveys and control.
provides early warning to affected countries and to the donor
community by analyzing this information with meteorological,
remote sensing and historical data and issuing forecasts, alerts
and special warnings.
the Group coordinates control operations and external
More information is available
on the Internet at :
Media Relations Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53473
(+39) 06 570 53625