A plague of locusts of Biblical proportion is spreading along the Red Sea coast of east Africa in the direction of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported last week.
Ground and aerial control operations are in progress as a result of the Desert Locust outbreak that developed on the Red Sea coast of Sudan and Eritrea during December, the FAO reported. A second generation of breeding by adult groups and swarms continues in these areas as well as on the coast in southeast Egypt and on the central and northern coast is Saudi Arabia. Consequently, locust numbers are increasing along both sides of the Red Sea.
In the past three weeks, there has been an escalation in second-generation hatching and hopper band formation on the north coast of Saudi Arabia between Thuwal and Masturah, on the central coast near Lith, on the southern coast of Sudan near the Eritrean border, and on the central coast of Eritrea. New swarms are likely to start forming at the end of the month in some places.
In the interior of Saudi Arabia, groups of mature adult locusts have reached the spring breeding areas between Zalim and Gassim, where some of them have started to lay eggs. Immature adults are maturing along the western and northern edge of the Empty Quarter near Wadi Dawasir and southeast of Riyadh.
Control operations have treated nearly 85,000 hectare since December, of which 30,000 hectare were treated in the past three weeks in Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
Since the beginning of February, moderate rains have fallen on the northern Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia between Yendo and Al Wajh while light showers fell on the central coast near Qunfidah. As vegetation is still green in coastal areas along both sides of the Red Sea, breeding will continue, causing a further increase in hopper and adult groups, bands and swarms.
Once vegetation begins to dry out, adult groups and a few swarms are likely to move north along the Red Sea coast in Eritrea to Sudan, and from the Red Sea coast of Sudan to the Nile Valley in northern Sudan. There is a moderate risk that some swarms could cross the Red Sea to the coastal and interior areas of Saudi Arabia.
In Iran, control operations are underway against at least one swarm that arrived on the southern coast at the end of January as well as against adult infestations in the spring breeding areas of the interior in the Jaz Murian Basin. Hatching and band formation are expected to occur in these areas by the end of February.
“All affected countries should step up vigilance and control measures to reduce current infestations and lessen the risk of migration and spring breeding,” the FAO advised.