Desert Locust Swarms Invade Yemen After Spring Breeding in Sinai

Desert locusts swarmed into Yemen last week after leaving spring breeding areas in Israel, the Sinai Peninsula and northwest Saudi Arabia, the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization reported.

More groups and small swarms of the plague insects are expected to move into the interior of Yemen this month, the Rome-based UN agency wrote on its Locust Watch website today. Some locusts flew across the Red Sea toward Sudan, it said.

A swarm of locusts covering a square kilometer (0.4 square mile) can eat between 80 and 160 metric tons of crops a day, based on calculations using FAO data. Yemen is the Middle East’s poorest country, and most people are employed in agriculture or herding, according to the CIA World Factbook.

“All efforts are required to monitor the situation closely and undertake the necessary control operations, especially in Sudan and Yemen,” the FAO wrote.

In Egypt, the number of groups of immature adult locusts is increasing in the Sinai and near Lake Nasser, while observations in the country’s Western Desert suggest adults are moving south to summer breeding areas in Sudan, the FAO said.

“There is a high probability that adult groups and a few small swarms will reach the vast summer breeding areas in the interior of Sudan where they will disperse between Darfur and western Eritrea, mature and lay eggs with the onset of the seasonal rains,” the FAO wrote.

An adult desert locust can eat its own weight of about 2 grams (0.07 ounce) daily, and swarms can cover several hundred square kilometers, with 40 million to 80 million of the insects per square kilometer, according to the FAO.

Desert-locust distribution can extend over 60 countries during plague years, covering about 29 million square kilometers, according to the UN agency.