New Delhi: It started last year in Iran from where it spread to Pakistan and then entered India from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. The desert locusts, one of the most damaging migratory pests, have infested parts of North and Central India and are now entering the Vidharba region on eastern Maharashtra, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. While the country is already struggling to get back on its feet amid the coronavirus lockdown, a locust infestation could cause further devastation to the agri-economy. Here’s why. Also Read - Jyotiraditya Loyalists Get Rewarded as Madhya Pradesh Cabinet Expands

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An otherwise harmless insect, locusts are a species of short-horned crop-eating grasshoppers that change their behaviour under certain circumstances, fly in visible swarms of millions and are highly mobile. While they usually live a solitary life, they migrate in swarms during dry spells. Also Read - UP Police Officer Who Was Arrested For Masturbating Before Woman Complainant, Now Terminated

When these locusts meet suitable environmental conditions, they become gregarious and start breeding abundantly. With their population becoming denser, these swarms attack crops, thereby devastating the entire agricultural economy in what is commonly referred to as locust plague.

Most years, the locusts invade eastern Rajasthan in India where they are contained.

Why are locusts dangerous? How much damage can they cause?

Going by India’s history in the late 1980s, desert locust are a direct threat to the food security of a country. After causing substantial destruction in at least 18 districts in Rajasthan, along with Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh amid the COVID-19 lockdown, the pest is now entering Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

How is India combating the locust attack amid COVID-19 pandemic?

The swarms have increased so much in size that people were seen beating ‘thalis’ at the locusts that had settled on walls and trees in residential areas of Jaipur’s Murlipura and Vidhyadhar Nagar, hoping to make them move on.

Four to five villages in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra have also come under attack from the locusts, known for feasting on all sorts of plants and standing crops. A team from the regional centre of the Central Integrated Pest Management Centre has started spraying chemicals on crops and plants near the Jalalkheda bypass where the insects have been located, Joint director of agriculture Ravindra Bhosale said.

Meanwhile, in Mathura, the city administration formed a task force to keep a strict vigil on any movement of locusts and prevent a potential pest attack by the grasshopper family.