Locust invasion blamed on heavy rains

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By Judith Akolo and Adan Ibrahim, KBC/NECJOGHA

NAIROBI, Kenya – Experts in insect physiology known as entomologists are attributing the desert locust invasion in the country to the favorable conditions brought about by the heavy rains experienced during the short rains season last year.

They claim the lush vegetation has made it possible for the insects to thrive.

The Head of Insect Science at the University of Nairobi Dr. George Ong’amo Otieno says, the desert locusts, which can eat their own body weight in 24 hours usually occur after a drought that is followed by rapid vegetation growth.

Dr. Ong’amo says the current invasion has its origin in Yemen, “If you recall Yemen had heavy rainfall in February last year, following the rainfall, the desert locusts was able to develop and multiply into swarms,” he said and added, “The swarms then moved to Ethiopia and down to Kenya.”

He said the swarms move around rapidly and can strip fields and cause damage to crops. “The adults are powerful fliers; they can travel great distances, consuming most of the green vegetation wherever the swarm settles,” he said.

Professor John Nderitu of the Faculty of Agriculture at the University of Nairobi is calling for an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach that includes biological, mechanical and chemical control for the desert locust that is quickly getting out of hand.

“The solution lies in managing the pest through biological control methods, mechanical as well as chemical, as we have heard the spraying using aircrafts,” said Prof. Nderitu.

He called for the involvement of the public in helping in surveillance so as to ensure that the IPM is done in good time.

However, the Chairman of the Entomologists Association Dr. Muo Kasina is calling on animal food manufacturers to instead harvest the desert locusts and use them in the production of animal feeds.

“The government should start sending teams to areas where the locusts have arrived and using the aircraft tied with nets, they can collect the swarms, and give them to animal feed manufacturers to produce animal feed,” he said and added, “the locusts are very nutritious.”Prof. Nderitu said the first desert locust invasion to affect Kenya was in 1943.

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