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Record-breaking locust plague draws near in Argentina.

Plague of locusts

Argentina expects a locust plague of nightmarish proportions to hit the country within ten days.  Calling it the country’s worse plague of locusts in more than half a century, officials say they are running out of time as they scramble in an attempt to contain the expected onslaught.  The agriculture agency’s chief of vegetative protection told reporters:

“It’s the worst explosion in the last 60 years. It’s impossible to eradicate; the plague has already established itself. We’re just acting to make sure it’s the smallest it can be.”

Locust plagueLast year farmers reported locust clouds that were more than four miles long and two miles high.  This year’s outbreak is expected to be far worse as pockets of locusts have already spread across northern Argentina covering an area about the size of Delaware.  Officials are doing their best to keep the locusts from developing into a flying throng.  If that happens, clouds of the creatures will spread across the country, darkening the skies, and devouring critical crops (e.g., sunflowers, cotton) and grasslands used for grazing cattle.

The recording-breaking number of locusts did not happen overnight.  Officials say they have seen an increase in the number of insects for the past five years.  However, they refuse to attribute the outbreak to climate change/global warming and instead, claim farmers are not using sufficient pest control measures.  Their refusal to admit the obvious is all the more bizarre given the latest WWF Global studies reporting severe climate change impacts in Argentina including highly unusual extreme weather events, an unusual decrease in rainfall in southwest Argentina, and an out-of-character increase in rainfall in southeast Argentina.

According to Wikipedia (paraphrased with emphasis added):

“Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers. In the solitary phase, these grasshoppers are innocuous, their numbers are low, and they cause little economic threat to agriculture. However, under suitable conditions of drought followed by rapid vegetation growth, serotonin in their brains triggers a dramatic set of changes: they start to breed abundantly, becoming gregarious and nomadic when their populations become dense enough. They form bands of wingless nymphs which later become swarms of winged adults. Both the bands and the swarms move around and rapidly strip fields and cause damage to crops.”

Currently, the locusts are young and have not developed the ability to fly.  In 10 days, the locusts are expected to grow to about two inches and mature into voracious flying swarms in search of food.  Once that happens, combating the impending plague will be all but impossible.

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