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calendar   Thursday - February 06, 2020

And A Plague On Both Your Houses

Africa Sucks

Good Weather Caused Giant Locust Swarm Devastating East Africa

Even when they win, they lose


Tearing across East Africa right now is a plague of biblical proportions: Hundreds of billions of locusts in swarms the size of major cities are laying waste to the crops in their path.
It’s the worst outbreak in 25 years in Ethiopia. In Kenya, make that the worst in seven decades.

Fueling the locusts’ destruction is a bounty of vegetation following unusually heavy rains. All that food means the landscape can support a huge number of rapidly breeding insects. And the problem is about to get a lot worse—the insect population could boom by a factor of 500 by June. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN is calling the situation in the Horn of Africa “extremely alarming,” and estimates that a swarm covering one square kilometer can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 humans. Farmers throughout East Africa now face food shortages, as the plague consumes both crops in the field and in storage.

Desert locusts only lay eggs in moist soil, to keep them from drying out. When heavy rains come in to saturate the desert, locusts—ever the opportunists—breed like mad and fill the soil with their eggs, perhaps 1,000 per square meter of soil. When those eggs hatch, they’ll have plenty of vegetation to eat, until things dry up once again.

As soon as things start getting crowded, desert locusts become gregarious and migrate away in search of more food.
...
These swarming grasshoppers love grains, a staple of the human diet. This is particularly threatening to farmers with depleted soils, because overgrazed lands tend to harbor more carbohydrate-rich species—grasses in particular are sapped of their protein as nitrogen washes out of overworked soil. It all but guarantees a swarm is going to make itself at home on somebody’s farm.
...
Water, another critical factor of locust biology, also helps explain why things are so bad in Africa right now. In 2018, the heavy rains that locusts crave came with two cyclones, in May and October, that made landfall in nearly the same place in the southern Arabian Peninsula. The May storm alone dumped enough water for desert vegetation to grow for six months, which is long enough for two generations of locusts to appear and explode their populations—fast.
...
Then the October cyclone added several more months’ breeding time.

Five Little Airplanes To Save Three Nations

As locusts by the billions — yes, billions — descend on parts of Kenya in the worst outbreak in 70 years, small planes are flying low over affected areas to spray pesticides in what experts call the only effective control.
...
Just five planes are currently spraying as Kenyan and other authorities try to stop the locusts from spreading to neighboring Uganda and South Sudan. The United Nations has said $76 million is needed immediately to widen such efforts across East Africa.

A fast response is crucial. Experts warn that if left unchecked, the number of locusts could grow by 500 times by June, when drier weather will help bring the outbreak under control.
...
n swarms the size of major cities, the locusts also have affected parts of Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea, whose agriculture ministry says both the military and general public have been deployed to combat them.

Kenya’s agriculture minister has acknowledged that authorities weren’t prepared for the scope of the infestation this year. That’s not surprising, considering it’s been decades since the country’s last comparable outbreak, U.N. officials say.

The locusts also are heading toward the breadbasket of Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous country, in that nation’s worst outbreak in 25 years. On Thursday, startled residents of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, started reported sightings of the insects.

I wonder what they’re spraying with. I bet DDT would work wonders.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 02/06/2020 at 04:40 PM   
Filed Under: • AfricaDisasters •  
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