These swarms entered Rajasthan earlier this week and at least one swarm had reached north-east Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh.
Locust swarm attacks may reportedly continue in India until July. The insects, which first entered Rajasthan and made their way through parts of Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Maharashtra, could also reach Odisha and Bihar with the monsoon winds.
A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) official speculates that these crop-destroying insects are unlikely to reach South India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
“Much of these movements were associated with strong westerly winds from cyclone Amphan in the Bay of Bengal. Control operations are underway,” Keith Cressman, Senior Locust Forecasting Officer at the FAO said as per a report by The Hindu BusinessLine.
Cressman further stated that the movement will slow down as swarms begin to breed and become less mobile.
Despite the earlier-than-usual arrival of these locust swarms, the destruction of crops has been minimal so far, barring some summer crops in Rajasthan and MP.
Experts blamed the poor control of spring breeding of locusts in the border areas of Pakistan for the early arrival of these swarms in India, owing mainly to the COVID-related lockdown.
“As the current swarms contain mainly pink locusts (hyperactive juvenile locusts) controlling them using conventional chemical spraying is difficult. This is because unlike mature locusts, which rest on the ground at night, these juveniles settle on tall trees,” said a locust control officer posted in the border areas in Rajasthan.
According to this official, some swarms were 7-8 km long and 3-4 km wide. It is estimated that one square km swarm can consist of 40-80 million locusts, which can eat up foodgrains that can feed up to 35,000 people per day.
Some farmers also stated that this is the worst locust attack in over two decades. Authorities are currently spraying chemicals wherever these swarms are being spotted.However, it is unlikely that the government will be taking any massive control action until additional sprayers arrive from the United Kingdom by mid-June. According to a senior official at the Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage at Faridabad, the government could use drones to carry out spray operations.