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Attack of the locusts

AN INVASION: A swarm of locusts in Chobe

#SWARMS DESTROY 8, 600 HECTARES

#MINISTRY CONFIDENT INVASION IS OVER

Huge swarms of hungry locusts have laid waste to a large chunk of grazing and farm land in the Chobe District.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the locusts were first spotted at the beginning of September and ultimately invaded 8, 600 hectares (86 km2) of grazing land.

Speaking to The Voice, Chobe District PRO, France Begensel, revealed that after the first sightings, the Ministry conducted their own investigations to determine what sort of threat the pests posed.

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“It was around the 23rd [September] that we realised the situation was serious and needed an intervention,” he explained, adding the swarms mostly invaded grazing areas around Parakarungu, Satau, Mabele and Kachikau.

“Fortunately it is not yet farming season in Botswana and only a few farms had crops,” said Begensel, noting the locusts destroyed 13.8h of farmed land, including 3.8h of maize.

“In total we identified 41 swarms and, as of last week Friday, we’ve managed to control 32 of the swarms,” he said.

According to Begensel, the nine remaining swarms have proved elusive, flying to remote, inaccessible areas around Chobe.

“Some flew into neighboring countries or wetlands where we can’t use insecticides,” he added.

The PRO further revealed they used ‘high volume vehicle mounted sprayers’ which enabled them to reach a vast area.

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“We’re using the Yellow Band pesticide, which is non-poisonous and environmental friendly. I can confidently conclude that we’ve managed to control the swarms because today you can travel up to 50km without a single sighting of a swarm!” he said.

Begensel hailed the commitment shown by Chobe residents in the fight against the locusts, infamous for leaving total destruction in their trail.

FIGHTING BACK: Spraying of the yellow band pesticide.

“One of the first interventions we made was to engage members of the community and form a committee to lead against the locust invasion,” he said.

The Chobe District spokesperson admitted that although they are yet to establish where the swarms came from, they suspect they originated from neighbouring countries.

East Africa faced a locust invasion at the end of last year and currently Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are fighting devastating swarms, numbering hundreds of billions of insects in total.

The species behind the recent swarms in Africa is the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria.

It’s normally an introvert and leads a solitary life. However, ideal environmental conditions (warm and wet) occasionally cause a population explosion.

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According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), left unchecked, locusts multiply by a factor of 20 per generation.

Researches have shown that there can be as many as 80 million locusts in a single swarm, with the biggest swarms able to cover 10, 000km2.

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