Major Swarms Of Insects

Mighty_Emperor

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Posted on Tue, May. 11, 2004



Trillions of Cicadas Emerge From Slumber

HOPE YEN

Associated Press



WASHINGTON - After a 17-year nap, trillions of red-eyed insects are crawling their way above ground in 14 states and the nation's capital.

Loudmouthed and ugly, the cicadas will fly clumsily into pets, bushes and unwitting pedestrians as they engage in a frenetic mating ritual that lasts well into June.

Then they'll disappear for another 17 years.

Keith Clay, a biologist and cicada researcher at Indiana University in Bloomington, said the appearance of cicadas is "an amazing biological phenomenon" that nonetheless produces a "yuck factor" for some people.

"They're not scared but see them as disgusting," he said.

The 1 1/2 inch-long black bugs with iridescent wings buzz around, but are basically harmless. They don't bite, and they don't sting. They live above ground as adults for about 2 1/2 weeks to reproduce all they can before dying.

The adult males begin the mating ritual with a long buzzing sound that attracts the females. The chorus from one colony's male insects is so loud that the insects can drown out outdoor wedding events, graduation ceremonies and golf tournaments, researchers say.

Scientists say this year's batch, the largest of the cicada groups that appear at various intervals, offers researchers a rare opportunity to study the insect's impact on the nation's forests. Recent studies indicate cicadas are growing in numbers due in part to deforestation.

Cicadas tend to thrive in sunlit forest edges, which often provide the warmer weather and younger trees most ideal for them to lay their young. That's because younger tree roots can sustain the 17-year feeding cycle of nymphic cicadas until they mature.

There are more than a dozen broods of 17-year cicadas, along with several 13-year varieties. This year's group, Brood X, is the largest and is concentrated in the Midwest and the mid-Atlantic.

Found only in the United States east of the Great Plains, the periodical cicadas burrow into the ground after hatching, some digging as far as 8 feet under. Below the earth, the nymphs slowly suck the sap from tree roots for nourishment.

After 17 years, they emerge and climb trees and shrubs, where they shed their crunchy skins and harden into maturity.

Sheer numbers is what ensures locusts' survival. The insects are a treat for robins and other birds, and even some pets, who are at risk for diarrhea or constipation if they eat too many. But many cicadas escape death because there are simply too many in the swarm for even the hungriest to devour.

"Their numbers simply overwhelm," Odland said.

Once the bugs mate, the females cut slits into tree branches, where they deposit 400 to 600 eggs. The adults quickly die, but the eggs hatch in a few weeks. The young cicadas dig into the ground and won't emerge into 2021.

The states which will see cicadas this summer include: Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

ON THE NET

National Science Foundation: http://www.nsf.gov/
http://www.bradenton.com/mld/bradenton/news/nation/8642197.htm

Invaded by Brood X
(Filed: 12/05/2004)


Washington faces insect plague as billions of bugs emerge after 17 years underground. Alec Russell reports

As if George W Bush did not have enough on his plate, Brood X started to take over his capital yesterday.

With a mixture of fear and fascination, Washingtonians prepared for an infestation of Biblical proportions as the first of a swarm of billions of cicadas emerged after 17 years underground.

Red-eyed, black-skinned and up to two inches long, the first cicadas wriggled out of holes in the ground where they have been waiting since the height of Ronald Reagan's presidency.

Within days, large parts of the city and areas across eastern America will be blanketed in cicadas. For the next six weeks, scientists predict, the noise will be staggering as billions of males rub their legs with the vigour of 17 years anticipation in search of the perfect mate.

Schoolchildren have been given instructions in how to cope and told not to panic. Weddings, soccer matches, and many public events will be rescheduled or moved indoors.

In the middle of next month, the females will lay eggs in trees. The adults will all die. Their offspring will drop down to the ground and bury under the soil, for their own 17-year vigil.

"It's the grandest natural phenomenon of the century," said Gary Hevel, an entomologist at the Smithsonian Institution. "This is the largest brood of periodical cicadas. It is the big one, a matter of billions and trillions.

"People tend to be annoyed and fearful about the lack of knowledge. We are trying to get the word out that they are not dangerous. They crawl out of the ground. They mate. They lay eggs and then they die."

There are many species of periodical cicadas, but Brood X is by far the largest and most numerous, and its visitations are rites of passage for veteran Washingtonians. The trigger for their emergence is when the earth temperature reaches 64, which happened sometime on Monday.

Yesterday residents roamed the leafier parts of Washington spotting the husks of the early risers who had already taken to the trees fully-formed with amber wings after shedding their skins, and the corpses of those that had failed their one and only test.

"I was in school in 1954 and the noise was incredible," recalled Barbara Beelar, 62, who was born and raised in Washington. "You couldn't sleep at night. Everyone was sleep-deprived. It's a wonderful example of nature grabbing your attention.

"They crawl out. Their great hope is to meet someone from the other sex and then they die. If you look at those things you can see where a whole genre of horror stories came from."

When colonists first witnessed the phenomenon they thought it was a sign from God, akin to the 10 plagues in Egypt. But in recent decades reactions have been more relaxed.Two swarms ago, in 1970, Bob Dylan immortalised the cicadas with a song Day of the Locusts.

Others are even more enlightened. Jacques Tiziou, a French-American, was in his kitchen yesterday freezing his first cicadas. He said: "They are pure protein. No fat. There are plenty of countries where the only food is some form of insect.

"We in America could do a service to those countries and tell them how to be more efficient about catching cicadas. "ou can teach your family to keep them and maybe smoke them."

"We have billions of them. Go to Google and ask for cicada recipes. You are sent to 3,600 sites."

One fan set up a website, http://www.cicadamania.com. which was swamped with sightings.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/mai...2.xml&sSheet=/portal/2004/05/12/ixportal.html
 

Bannik

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Why haven't I seen any Cicadas yet?:mad:
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Bannik: You clearly aren't trying hard enough - did you not read what it says? Trillions!! In one news report I even saw a giant one sitting on top of the White House (although I suspect it was a mock up for illustrative purposes although it might have been social commentary on its current occupant).

Let us know when they do show up in your area (there are sites tracking progress I believe so check there for updates) - and take pictures.

Emps
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Low-Fat, High-Protein Cicadas: New Health Snack?

John Roach
for National Geographic News
May 3, 2004

High-protein, low-carbohydrate diet fanatics take note: The billions of cicadas set to emerge from the ground en masse later this month are a healthy alternative to that bacon double-cheeseburger without the bun.

"They're high in protein, low in fat, no carbs," said Gene Kritsky, a biologist and cicada expert at the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio. "They're quite nutritious, a good set of vitamins."

The largest group of periodical cicadas, known as Brood X, will crawl out of the ground soon and carpet trees along the eastern United States. By July, Brood X will be gone—not to be heard from again for 17 years.

Cicadas spend most of their lives underground sucking sap from tree roots. The plant-based diet gives them a green, asparagus-like flavor, especially when eaten raw or boiled, according to Kritsky. The researcher says he looks forward to trying a cicada-vegetable medley this May.

Gross? Not really, says Jenna Jadin, an entomology graduate student at the University of Maryland in College Park who created a brochure in preparation for the Brood X emergence entitled, "Cicada-Licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicada."

In her brochure, Jadin notes that crawfish, lobster, crab, and shrimp are part of the same biological phylum—arthropods—as insects. "So popping a big juicy beetle, cricket, or cicada into your mouth is only a step away," Jadin writes.

Jadin said the recipe she most wants to try is chocolate-covered cicada. "I like chocolate, and chocolate covered insects are common worldwide," she said. "We'll see how comparable they are to chocolate-covered crickets."

Eating insects for food is common throughout the world and dates back thousands of years, Kritsky said. For example, in parts of Africa, scarab beetles are considered a delicacy. In the U.S., however, there is a cultural aversion to bugs.

Healthy Eating?

Jadin's brochure begins with a disclaimer from the University of Maryland asking would-be cicada eaters to first consult a doctor because, like all foods, certain individuals may have an allergic reaction.

Despite the warning, Jadin said there is no evidence to suggest that cicadas are unsafe to eat. Her only concern is the cicadas that emerge in areas heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, as the insects could have absorbed the chemicals in their bodies.

"Given that it's likely people won't be feasting on cicadas, just eating a few of them, even if they have [absorbed] chemicals it's no worse than eating fish from the Great Lakes," Jadin said. "If [people] survived that, they'll probably survive eating a plateful of cicada."

David George Gordon, a science writer in Port Townsend, Washington, whose Eat-A-Bug Cookbook includes a recipe for cicada-topped pizza, said he is unaware of any adverse health impacts of eating cicada. Or as he put it, "Bug appetit."

The only consequence of cicada feasting that Kritsky is aware of is overindulgence, especially on the part of the family dog or favorite backyard squirrel. The animals may be enticed to gobble cicadas so quickly that the bugs could block the animals' throat.

"Just imagine how you would react if inundated with thousands of flying Hershey Kisses," Kritsky said. "You might go nuts. I'd go nuts. That's what happens to dogs or squirrels."

Eaten in moderation, most experts agree that cicadas are a good source of protein (about the same amount pound per pound as red meat) and are full of vitamins and minerals.

Cicada Preparation

So, are you ready to try a cicada? Aspiring gourmands must first begin by collecting the raw ingredients. The insects are best eaten just after the nymphs break open their skin and before their exoskeleton turns black and hard, cicada aficionados say.

These newly hatched cicadas are called tenerals. Jadin said they are best collected in the early morning hours just after the insects emerge from the ground but before they crawl up a tree, where they are harder to reach.

If tenerals are unavailable, the next best menu item is adult females. Their bellies are fat and full of nutritious eggs.

Adult males, however, offer little to eat. More crunch than munch, their abdomens are hollow. (This enables the flirtatious tunes they strum on body structures known as tymbals to resonate.) With raw cicadas in hand, preparation is a matter of chef's choice. Kritsky said, "Most people like them deep fried and dipped in a sauce like a hot mustard or cocktail sauce." Other people boil or blanch them.

Jadin says cicadas take on a "nutty" flavor when roasted. She notes that many cicada recipes call for a lot of spices and sauce, which usually winds up being the dominant flavor.

Now on to the wine: red or white? The bartenders at the Georgetown Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C., say neither. This month, patrons can order a "cicada cocktail." It's made from chilled Grey Goose orange vodka, fresh pineapple juice with a touch of Blue Curacao, shaken not stirred, and served straight up in a martini glass.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2004/05/0503_040503_cicadafeast.html
 

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Locusts: 'orrible creatures, make me itchy like cockroaches.
 

Bannik

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I haven't even heard any yet. Believe me if they were here I wouldn't have to look for them. I remember the last summer they all hatched and they were all over the place.
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Sooooooooo spotted any yet?

------------------
Surely this report should be - parents warned to stop children being so stupid?


Pediatrician Warns Parents About Cicadas

Fri May 14, 1:04 PM ET


By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - First there was the girl who fell off her bike fleeing a flying cicada. Then a boy trying to swat a cicada out of the air with a baseball bat instead hit his friend in the nose.


The final straw came when another child hurt his hand trying to squish a cicada under a car's tires. Dr. Ray Baker of Cincinnati Children's Hospital was convinced -- cicadas can be a safety hazard to children.

Starting this week and lasting into June, billions and possibly even trillions of cicadas will emerge across much of the eastern half of the United States.

The thumb-sized insects are harmless, but they are large, noisy and clumsy. They climb out of their underground homes en masse after 17 years of slow development with only one goal in mind -- finding a mate.

The last time this happened at such a scale was in 1987, and Baker was working in the emergency room of Cincinnati Children's.

"We just noticed when this all started, children were coming in and having injuries related to cicadas," Baker said in a telephone interview.

"After the third or fourth one we decided to keep a list."

They noted 12 injuries that were fairly significant, Baker said. He wrote a letter to the journal Pediatrics afterward, outlining the cases.

"They were all related to kids trying to get away from what they perceived as cicadas flying at them, or the children were trying to kill them," Baker said.

"They do freak people out. They are big. They are bigger than most other flying things and they really don't seem to have any tremendous purpose in which direction they are flying."

Several children fell off bikes, Baker said. "We had a concussion, a 9-year-old who was fleeing a cicada on her bicycle and fell off," he said.

Another child hit his head on a brick wall while he was running away from one of the insects.

"We had a stab wound to the arm from a kid who was trying to kill a cicada on the arm of another child but unfortunately he was using a knife," Baker added.

"Another kid tried to kick one under a lawn mower and cut his foot, and we saw a crush injury to the hand when a kid tried to put a cicada under the wheels of a moving car."

All parents can do is try and supervise their children and remind them that that the cicadas are harmless, Baker advised.

"There's a lot on the news, but I think that just gets kids kind of excited," he said. "Kids don't always do what they are told."
http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/health_cicadas_dc
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Cicadas Invasion Means New Recipes

WGAL-TV
Updated: 01:29 PM PT May16, 2004

6:36 p.m. EDT May 14, 2004 - The cicada invasion you've heard so much could mean a new adventure for your taste buds.

Lancaster County naturalist Lisa Sanchez digs for what she considers a delicacy.

"They're high in protein, low in carbs," Sanchez said. "You can eat them just as they hatch out when they're still soft before they get the hard exoskeleton or when they get the hard exoskeleton."

In other parts of the world, bugs are a staple of the diet. In an Asian market in Lancaster, shoppers can find packaged bugs in the freezer case.

Employee Jonathan Chan said they are popular with people from Cambodia.

"They deep fry with panko (Asian bread crumbs), say it's very good," Chan said.

Sanchez has been cooking up bugs for about 15 years. She can't wait to serve cicadas.

"Waiting to make some great recipes, to cook some, fry some, bake some or eat some raw, no preparation," Sanchez said.

If you're looking for inspiration, the University of Maryland has come up with a number of cicada recipes. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required to read recipes.)
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/4981670/
 

Mighty_Emperor

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But before you start warming up the pans:

Man ill after gorging on sauteed cicadas



Associated Press
May 15, 2004



BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A man who cooked and ate nearly 30 cicadas sought medical treatment after suffering a strong allergic reaction to the sauteed insects.

The man showed up at a Bloomington clinic Thursday covered from head-to-toe in hives, and sheepishly told a doctor he'd caught and ate the cicadas after sauteing them in butter with crushed garlic and basil.

"He said they didn't taste too bad, but his wife didn't care for the aroma," said Dr. Al Ripani, the doctor who treated the man at Promptcare East.

The man, who has a history of asthma and shellfish allergies, suffered a "significant allergic reaction," after eating the cicadas, Ripani said.

He said he gave the man antihistamines, steroids and a shot of adrenaline, then observed him for two hours before sending him home.

After living underground for 17 years and feeding on tree roots, the so-called Brood X cicadas are emerging by the billions across the Eastern U.S.

Ripani said recent newspaper articles extolling the tastiness of cicada cuisine should have warned people that dining on the bugs can be dangerous for some people.

"Severe food allergies such as this can be fatal," he said. "I feel that needs to be stressed in these articles."

He said the University of Maryland's department of entomology's Cicada-licious cookbook, which includes recipes for Cicada Stir-Fry and Cicada Dumplings, contains a disclaimer urging people to consult a doctor before eating cicadas.

"We ask that you please take special caution if you have other food allergies, such as soy, nuts or shellfish, or if you know of any contact allergies that you may have to other insects," it states.
http://www.indystar.com/articles/0/146839-2920-093.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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And now the end is near......

Cicada Sightings Fade Away

Tuesday June 15, 2004 8:25am



Washington (AP) - Those unwelcome, red-eyed, winged visitors are now nearly all gone.

As if your eyes and ears weren't enough proof of the cicadas' decline, the Cicada Mania Web site reports that all of the excitement is coming to an end south of the Mason Dixon line.

One message on the site from Alexandria (website - news) reads "The UFO sound is gone from this area," referring to the whirring noise the male insects make as they search for a mate.

Another message from McLean reads "there are dead cicada carcasses all over the place."

Experts say the end of the cicadas holds true to historical patterns. Once they mate, the males die and the females lay their eggs in tree branches before perishing. The nymphs hatch, drop to the soil and burrow several inches underground.

The aboveground cycle lasts less than four weeks.
http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0604/153335.html

It doesn't seem to have been as much fun as I was expecting :(

Anyone here get to see any?

Emps
 

Mighty_Emperor

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UN issues locust plague warning

By Richard Black
BBC Science correspondent

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says a plague of desert locusts could soon hit several north African states.

It says this year's locust swarm looks like being the worst for 15 years.

About m has been pledged for assistance, but the FAO says more money and resources are urgently needed.

The FAO says the first swarms of locusts have moved from their spring breeding grounds into Mauritania, Mali and Senegal, with many more to come.

It issued its first warning of a coming locust plague back in February, when unusually high rates of breeding were detected south of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Algeria.

Darfur danger

Major insecticide spraying programmes were initiated, some funded by western donors, aiming to cut the plague off at source.

Clearly they have not worked. The first swarms have now moved into Mauritania, Senegal and Mali, and the FAO says Niger and Chad will also see swarms in the next few weeks.

Summer rains have started in the area, which means the insects will lay more eggs as they travel.

Swarms could eventually reach the Darfur region of Sudan, where conflict has already created a major humanitarian crisis.

Locusts can eat their own weight in food every day, which means a single swarm can consume as much food as several thousand people.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/africa/3868829.stm

Published: 2004/07/05 22:31:17 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 

Mighty_Emperor

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2004 Cicadas Fade Away; Next Batch Starts 17-Year Life

Monday July 12, 2004 7:36am



College Park, Md. (AP) - Their droning love songs have faded.

The skies are free of their tumbling flights and carcasses that littered sidewalks washed away long ago.

People who feared then can walk outside again without worry while those who loved them quietly mourn.

The Brood X cicadas, vintage 2004, are gone.

But up in the trees of several eastern states, the next generation is just beginning its 17-year life.

Within the next few weeks, the billions of eggs that the now-dead female cicadas deposited in tree branches will hatch.

Tiny white nymphs no bigger than a sesame seed with beady red eyes will rain down from branches to the ground, burrow to tree roots and start their long development.

They won't emerge as adults until 2021.
http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0704/158631.html
 

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Published online: 09 July 2004; | doi:10.1038/news040705-8

Locust plague threatens Africa

Helen Pearson

Briefing: A plague of locusts is poised to sweep into western Africa and destroy precious food crops, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned this week. Can they be stopped in time? [email protected] investigates what it takes to control the voracious insects.


The insect in question is the desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria (Forskal), a type of grasshopper that usually lives in the deserts of Africa and Asia. The insects emerge from eggs laid in sandy soil, develop into wingless 'hoppers' on the ground and then mature into winged locusts.

And what do they do?

When the insects are sparse, they act autonomously. But when they build up a critical mass, they change colour and start acting together, forming moving carpets of 'hoppers' and then winged swarms that can span several hundred square kilometres. A swarm can consume the same amount of food in one day as several thousand people. Widespread swarms, called plagues, occur sporadically and have been reported since ancient Egyptian times.

Where did they come from and where are they heading?

Two days of torrential rains in western Africa last October encouraged the insects to breed and lay their eggs in wet sand. They later moved northwards to Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. This year, favourable weather conditions have vastly increased their numbers. Despite efforts to control them, the first swarms are forming and heading back to northwestern countries, including Mauritania, Senegal and Mali. The locusts are soon expected to spread east towards Niger, Chad and Sudan.

How serious is the threat?

Extremely serious, according to experts. So far, the scale of the infestation is on a par with the growth of the last plague in 1987-89, which affected 28 countries. The worst-case scenario is that they will strip subsistence crops in areas that are already suffering severe food shortages because of civil war or drought. "It's the most serious situation we have had in the past fifteen years," says Keith Cressman of the FAO, who forecasts locust infestations.

How can the creatures be controlled?

Locusts are mainly curbed using chemical pesticides, such as the organophosphate malathion, which is sprayed from vehicles and aeroplanes. Unfortunately, this kills insects and the toxin can accumulate in birds, lizards and other animals that feed on the poisoned insects.

An alternative, but still experimental, way to combat the desert locusts is with spores of a Metarhizium fungus that infects and kills the insects. It has been tested against a related species of locust in areas of Australia where there are endangered birds, livestock or organic crops. But there are downsides: the fungus costs more than conventional pesticides; takes a week or two longer to kill; and the infrastructure is not present to produce large enough quantities to fight the swarms that may shortly descend.

Will it be difficult to stamp them out?

Yes. One of the hardest things is tracking down the bands of hoppers, which cover just a few square metres, in several hundred square kilometres of desert. This requires countless aeroplanes and cars. Research into alternative methods has dried up, because interest has died since the last plague.

Another problem is that vital information may not be shared, because some of the northern African countries are reluctant to admit holes in their control policies. "It's hard for a country to admit a swarm has left the country and that they weren't effective," says entomologist and locust expert Arnold van Huis of Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Is there enough cash?

No. The 1987-89 plague cost more than US0 million to quell, and this time experts say there are critical shortfalls in the stock of pesticides available and in money to buy more. The FAO says it needs an extra million to million for this summer and autumn and is calling on donor agencies to cough up more money, but it has to compete with other humanitarian demands. "If people are not dying it's not an emergency," says van Huis.

What will happen next?

Whether the early swarms develop into vast ones partly depends on the weather: rains will escalate the problem and dry weather could assuage it. But some say that a plague is almost unavoidable without drastic intervention. We will see much bigger swarms in the coming weeks, predicts Cressman.
http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040705/full/040705-8.html
 

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Locust swarms invade Mauritania

Mauritania has appealed for urgent international aid to combat swarms of locusts entering the country.
Large numbers have been moving from their spring breeding areas in north-west Africa towards Mauritania, Senegal and Mali.

They could be the worst swarms in 15 years, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation says.

Mauritania says seven regions have been hit, and it has proposed a m programme to treat the affected areas.

Rural Development Minister Ahmedou Ould Ahmedou submitted a plan to treat some 3,000 square kilometres but said this could be a conservative estimate.

Darfur danger

The FAO issued its first warning of a coming locust plague back in February, when unusually high rates of breeding were detected south of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and Algeria.

Major insecticide spraying programmes were initiated, some funded by western donors, aiming to cut the plague off at source.

Summer rains have started in the area, which means the insects will lay more eggs as they travel.

Swarms could eventually reach the Darfur region of Sudan, where conflict has already created a major humanitarian crisis.

Locusts can eat their own weight in food every day, which means a single swarm can consume as much food as several thousand people.
BBCi News 19/07/04
 

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Locust Swarms Threaten Crops in Senegal, Mali
Tue 20 July, 2004 19:56

By Tiemoko Diallo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Swarms of desert locusts have swept into Senegal and Mali and threaten to destroy vital crops and spark a food crisis in West Africa's worst locust plague in 15 years, experts said on Tuesday.

Fakaba Diakite, head of Mali's Locust Fighting Unit, told Reuters that 42 swarms had been spotted in the country.

Desert locust swarms contain up to 80 million insects per square km and travel more than 80 miles a day. Adults eat their own weight, or about two grams, of food daily and swarms can devastate entire crop fields in minutes.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the locust crisis is the most serious to hit West Africa since a 1987-1989 plague which cost more than 0 million to contain. About million has been pledged to fight the swarms this year.

Diakite said Mali would need to spray between 100,000 and 800,000 hectares of crops with pesticides -- costing up to five billion CFA francs (.5 million).

In neighboring Senegal, locust swarms have been seen in the north and north east around Matam and Bakel where about 950 hectares have been treated with pesticides.

Mame Ndene Lo, who heads the Agriculture Ministry's division battling locust invasions, said swarms appeared to have moved to Mali, lured by an early start to the rainy season there.

The locusts came from breeding areas in north-western Africa and flew south to Mauritania, Senegal and Mali.

They are likely to multiply over the next few weeks, the FAO said earlier this month.

Mauritania's Rural Development Minister Ahmedou Ould Ahmedou told Reuters 322,000 hectares had been sprayed with chemical products in his country, but said 800,000 hectares were at risk.

"The whole north of Mauritania is threatened," he said.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade last week urged world leaders to declare war on the locusts, warning they exposed hundreds of millions of people to the risk of famine.

(Additional reporting by Ibrahima Sylla in Nouakchott, Diadie Ba in Dakar)

http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=5721165&section=news
 

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The attack of the flies...

Don't know whether this really fits in here...



A DESPERATE 300 year old village pub has used a staggering FIFTY cans of fly spray - after being struck by a massive infestation of FLIES
There are thousands of them literally everywhere

Landlady Heather Wheeler - who runs the Barleycorn Inn at picture postcard Collingbourne Kingston, on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire - said: "We have used the fly spray cans in order to continue selling food. But one evening 27 customers walked out because of the flies.

'It has been an absolute nightmare. There are thousands of them literally everywhere.'

The pub is one of scores of properties in the village and neighbouring Collingbourne Ducis and Ludgershall that are under siege from literally tens of thousands of 'domestic household' flies which have suddenly descended since the 'extraordinary' hot weather arrived.

And as the number of flies continued to grow a red faced council admitted it did not know the cause of the massive infestation - and they may well stay until the weather cools off.

Councillor Tony Still - chairman of Collingbourne Ducis Parish Council and who represents both Collingbourne's on Kennet District Council - stormed: "I am demanding action to get rid of them - the damn things are everywhere.

'Everybody I know of has got these flies. I know of at least 50 houses with the problem.'

Yesterday Kennet District Council said it had officers collecting samples after it received at least 50 complaints in a few days from people living in Collingbourne Ducis, Collingbourne Kingston and Ludgershall.

'It is extraordinary for these things to come out in such numbers - it is the extraordinary weather. We just do now know what is causing the problem. It is quite possible the problem will not go away until the hot weather goes away,' said a spokesman.

Now the Environmental Health department of the council has E Mailed their colleagues at EVERY other council in the country to ask for help in getting rid of the flies

'It appears just to be domestic house flies - the common house fly. We have E Mailed our colleagues across the country to ask for advice. We are still investigating - it is spreading all the time,' added the spokesman.
 

TheQuixote

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African states plan locust battle

Ministers from nine African countries are meeting to decide a plan of action as millions of locusts loom over the region, poised to annihilate its crops.

The ministers will review national strategies at a conference in Algeria, before drawing up a region-wide plan.

The worst locust plague in 15 years has spread from Morocco to Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Senegal, the UN says.

The insects can devour within a day food that would feed thousands of people and hundreds of livestock.

The meeting in Algiers brings together agriculture ministers from countries already battling the locust plague and from states where the threat is drawing closer - Chad, Libya, and Tunisia.

[...]

Spraying programmes

The insect swarms have already affected over 6.5m hectares (16m acres) of farmland in north-western Africa and the Sahel region.

However the UN said measures to control the spread of locusts appear to have had some success in the area.

Swarms had yet to be reported in Chad or Sudan's Darfur region, though the risk of them arriving remained high.

But, the UN says, heavy seasonal rains in the Sahel region have increased the danger that locust numbers will continue to rise in west Africa.

[..]

BBCi News 27/07/04
 

TheQuixote

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Insects Pose Grave Threat to Chinese Grasslands
Sun 8 August, 2004 07:44

BEIJING (Reuters) - Locusts, caterpillers and grubs are munching away grasslands in China's impoverished western province of Gansu, posing the gravest threat to the area from bugs in 20 years, Xinhua news agency said Sunday.

Nearly 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) of grasslands in five counties and cities were being attacked by the insects, an official with the local livestock and grassland protection department said.

"The plague is the most harmful over the past 20 years," the official, Wang Wei, was quoted as saying.

"The population density in some place even reaches to 220 insects per square meter," he said.

Experts predicted 20,000 domestic animals would face difficulty surviving the winter because of the insect attack, Wang said.

Insects had eaten almost all of the grass in three towns in Maqu County, dubbed "the best natural meadow in Asia," Xinhua said.

In 2000, bugs only devoured about 47,000 hectares (116,000 acres), it said.

If the growth in the amount of grasslands being eaten by bugs in southern Gansu is not stopped, the region's entire grasslands will be under threat in about 12 years, it said.

"If no effective measures were taken to bring insect pests under control, the security of the grassland ecosystem and herdsmen' lives will be threatened," another official said.
http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=5903518&section=news
 

James_H

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I read a headline here in Oxford saying: "County prepares for plague of wasps" but didn't buy the paper so I don't know the story. Have noticed a lot of hives this year.
 

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Crickets invade French airport
02 August 2004

NICE: Millions of crickets have invaded Nice airport in southern France, causing no direct threat to air traffic but attracting birds who could pose a danger, airport officials said.

Frederic Gozlan, head of technical services at the airport, said efforts were under way to clear the crickets who are believed to have flown in from Italy or North Africa.

"The crickets look for and love the sun, but we have to hunt them down before they eat all the grass by the runways," he said, adding that the grass was needed to hold dust and gravel in place when planes land and take off.

"If the insects are not a real danger for the jet engines, what is more serious is that they attract birds who are very dangerous for air traffic."

Airport workers were trying to pulverize the crickets and destroy them with chemicals that would not damage the environment.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,2989177a4560,00.html
 

Mighty_Emperor

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This is just about the last thing people in that region need:

Millions of Locusts Headed for Darfur, U.N. Says

Wed Aug 11, 9:14 AM ET

By Phil Stewart

ROME (Reuters) - Millions of locusts are probably heading for Darfur, a U.N. agency said on Wednesday, where violence has already created a humanitarian disaster and two million people are short of food and medicine.

"Swarms could get into Sudan any day, but we of course don't know when," said Dr. Clive Elliott, senior officer in charge of the locust group at the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (news - web sites) (FAO).

"The FAO is in contact with the authorities in Sudan and our coordinators in Cairo are working with the countries around the Red Sea to get as prepared as possible for an invasion from the west," he said.

Elliott denied reports that desert locusts had already arrived in the Darfur region of western Sudan.

"We're expecting it, but I'm not aware of any information that desert locusts have arrived in Sudan," he said.

The region is facing its most serious locust crisis for 15 years, with swarms of desert locusts moving from northwest Africa into Mauritania, Mali and Niger, where many of the inhabitants are subsistence farmers.

Desert locust swarms usually contain about 50 million insects per square kilometer and can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day. They can devastate entire crop fields in minutes, adult locusts munching their own weight, about two grams, of food a day.

At least one swarm has reached Chad, bordering west Sudan's Darfur region where fighting between militiamen and rebels has displaced more than one million people and created severe shortages of food, medicine and shelter.

Elliott said the last swarm spotted in Chad was on July 27 in Batha province, only about 400 km (250 miles) from the Sudanese border. He said the swarm was smaller than those seen in Mauritania, reaching only about 4 km in length.

"If they arrive in Darfur, they will eat anything green ... So if the farmers have planted their crops, and they are nicely sprouting, those crops will clearly be at risk," he said.

"They may not necessarily stay in Darfur ... It depends on the conditions," he said.
Source

If you are thinking of giving money but haven't done so already then now would seem like a very good time:

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_you_can_do/give_to_oxfam/donate/western_sudan.htm

http://www.msf.org/countries/page.cfm?articleid=F7BA0C1E-2D03-4138-BC4961A902527911

http://www.christian-aid.org.uk/give/appeals/sudan1.htm
 

Mighty_Emperor

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Locusts invade "Passion of Christ" town

Tue Aug 24, 1:37 PM ET

ROME (Reuters) - It seemed like an invasion of Biblical proportions in the Italian town of Matera, the outdoor setting for Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of The Christ".

Millions of locusts swarmed into the ancient stone city, scaring tourists off outdoor patios, and evoking some playful comparisons to Old Testament plagues.

The town Gibson used to depict Christ's final hours was still shuddering about the bugs on Tuesday, even though the worst seemed to be over.

"I'd never seen anything like it," said Rosalia Guira Longo, who runs the Albergo Italia, where Gibson stayed while shooting the controversial film.

"At night, the ground was carpeted by locusts ... they were huge," she told Reuters.

Matera, in the southern Basilicata region, is a designated UNESCO (news - web sites) World Heritage Site for its preserved ancient cave and stone dwellings.

Locusts are not uncommon in southern Italy.
Source
 

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Australia Fights Biggest Locust Plague in Decades

Fri Sep 17, 2004 06:05 AM ET


By Michael Byrnes

NARRABRI Australia (Reuters) - Australia has started battling its biggest plague of locusts in decades as billions of the insects hatch along a wide front covering much of the country's central east region.

Ground spraying will be stepped up from next week as dusty, scrubby fields crawl with the quarter-inch hopping baby insects, New South Wales Plague Locust Commissioner Graeme Eggleston told Reuters.

A field inspection on Friday showed countless numbers of the week-old insects hopping knee high in fields on the outskirts of Narrabri, a cotton-growing region, 250 miles northwest of Sydney.

Officials said the locusts could threaten hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops in the Narrabri district alone.

Australia's locust fighters are stepping up efforts to kill the locusts before they start to fly and descend on fields of wheat, barley and canola in the next few weeks.

Rex Simpson, who farms a 8,200 acre spread outside Narrabri, squinted from beneath a weatherbeaten bush hat across infested plains, as baby locusts covered the legs of his blue jeans.

"I've been here for 24 years and this is the third lot that I've seen come through," he said. "And this is by far the biggest lot that I've seen in that time."

Eggleston says six helicopter companies and six fixed-wing aircraft companies are on contract to attack the insects with aerial spray if ground control does not kill them first.

CONCERN OVER MICE

The tiny locusts, now about the size of a grain of wheat, will grow 10 times bigger in the next five weeks, after eating five times their body weight a day.

A dense 250 acre swarm of 40 million insects can eat 10 tons of grains a day -- and travel 300 miles a night if weather conditions are right.

----------------
Department of Primary Industries information released during Friday's site inspection showed reported locust hatchings as of Sept. 16 were concentrated on the Coonabarabran-Narrabri district in central New South Wales.

But hatchings also extended on a 600 mile front throughout New South Wales.

"They're coming in daily," New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said, with 172 hatchings reported so far.

"When it's bad they can just blot out the sun," he said.

The New South Wales government, backed by farmer levies, has spent A.5 million (
Australia Fights Biggest Locust Plague in Decades

Fri Sep 17, 2004 06:05 AM ET


By Michael Byrnes

NARRABRI Australia (Reuters) - Australia has started battling its biggest plague of locusts in decades as billions of the insects hatch along a wide front covering much of the country's central east region.

Ground spraying will be stepped up from next week as dusty, scrubby fields crawl with the quarter-inch hopping baby insects, New South Wales Plague Locust Commissioner Graeme Eggleston told Reuters.

A field inspection on Friday showed countless numbers of the week-old insects hopping knee high in fields on the outskirts of Narrabri, a cotton-growing region, 250 miles northwest of Sydney.

Officials said the locusts could threaten hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops in the Narrabri district alone.

Australia's locust fighters are stepping up efforts to kill the locusts before they start to fly and descend on fields of wheat, barley and canola in the next few weeks.

Rex Simpson, who farms a 8,200 acre spread outside Narrabri, squinted from beneath a weatherbeaten bush hat across infested plains, as baby locusts covered the legs of his blue jeans.

"I've been here for 24 years and this is the third lot that I've seen come through," he said. "And this is by far the biggest lot that I've seen in that time."

Eggleston says six helicopter companies and six fixed-wing aircraft companies are on contract to attack the insects with aerial spray if ground control does not kill them first.

CONCERN OVER MICE

The tiny locusts, now about the size of a grain of wheat, will grow 10 times bigger in the next five weeks, after eating five times their body weight a day.

A dense 250 acre swarm of 40 million insects can eat 10 tons of grains a day -- and travel 300 miles a night if weather conditions are right.

----------------
Department of Primary Industries information released during Friday's site inspection showed reported locust hatchings as of Sept. 16 were concentrated on the Coonabarabran-Narrabri district in central New South Wales.

But hatchings also extended on a 600 mile front throughout New South Wales.

"They're coming in daily," New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said, with 172 hatchings reported so far.

"When it's bad they can just blot out the sun," he said.

The New South Wales government, backed by farmer levies, has spent A$2.5 million ($1.8 million) on enough insecticide to cover almost 124,000 acres. It has about A$1 million in reserve. Spending would rise dramatically if widespread outbreaks occurred, Macdonald said.

This is in addition to spending by the federal body, the Australian Plague Locust Commission.

"We have assembled the largest program that's ever been put together in this state to fight this potential outbreak," Macdonald said.

Farmers said there was growing concern over a simultaneous plague of mice. Both outbreaks have been sparked by the breaking earlier this year of Australia's worst drought in a century.

Rural Land Protection Board officials said 2,200 acres of mouse bait was laid around Narrabri on Thursday.

"They come with their dinner jackets on," New South Wales Commissioner Eggleston said of the mice, which particularly like yellow fields of canola now growing in the Narrabri district.


-----------------------------------
© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.
.8 million) on enough insecticide to cover almost 124,000 acres. It has about A
Australia Fights Biggest Locust Plague in Decades

Fri Sep 17, 2004 06:05 AM ET


By Michael Byrnes

NARRABRI Australia (Reuters) - Australia has started battling its biggest plague of locusts in decades as billions of the insects hatch along a wide front covering much of the country's central east region.

Ground spraying will be stepped up from next week as dusty, scrubby fields crawl with the quarter-inch hopping baby insects, New South Wales Plague Locust Commissioner Graeme Eggleston told Reuters.

A field inspection on Friday showed countless numbers of the week-old insects hopping knee high in fields on the outskirts of Narrabri, a cotton-growing region, 250 miles northwest of Sydney.

Officials said the locusts could threaten hundreds of millions of dollars worth of crops in the Narrabri district alone.

Australia's locust fighters are stepping up efforts to kill the locusts before they start to fly and descend on fields of wheat, barley and canola in the next few weeks.

Rex Simpson, who farms a 8,200 acre spread outside Narrabri, squinted from beneath a weatherbeaten bush hat across infested plains, as baby locusts covered the legs of his blue jeans.

"I've been here for 24 years and this is the third lot that I've seen come through," he said. "And this is by far the biggest lot that I've seen in that time."

Eggleston says six helicopter companies and six fixed-wing aircraft companies are on contract to attack the insects with aerial spray if ground control does not kill them first.

CONCERN OVER MICE

The tiny locusts, now about the size of a grain of wheat, will grow 10 times bigger in the next five weeks, after eating five times their body weight a day.

A dense 250 acre swarm of 40 million insects can eat 10 tons of grains a day -- and travel 300 miles a night if weather conditions are right.

----------------
Department of Primary Industries information released during Friday's site inspection showed reported locust hatchings as of Sept. 16 were concentrated on the Coonabarabran-Narrabri district in central New South Wales.

But hatchings also extended on a 600 mile front throughout New South Wales.

"They're coming in daily," New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said, with 172 hatchings reported so far.

"When it's bad they can just blot out the sun," he said.

The New South Wales government, backed by farmer levies, has spent A$2.5 million ($1.8 million) on enough insecticide to cover almost 124,000 acres. It has about A$1 million in reserve. Spending would rise dramatically if widespread outbreaks occurred, Macdonald said.

This is in addition to spending by the federal body, the Australian Plague Locust Commission.

"We have assembled the largest program that's ever been put together in this state to fight this potential outbreak," Macdonald said.

Farmers said there was growing concern over a simultaneous plague of mice. Both outbreaks have been sparked by the breaking earlier this year of Australia's worst drought in a century.

Rural Land Protection Board officials said 2,200 acres of mouse bait was laid around Narrabri on Thursday.

"They come with their dinner jackets on," New South Wales Commissioner Eggleston said of the mice, which particularly like yellow fields of canola now growing in the Narrabri district.


-----------------------------------
© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.
million in reserve. Spending would rise dramatically if widespread outbreaks occurred, Macdonald said.

This is in addition to spending by the federal body, the Australian Plague Locust Commission.

"We have assembled the largest program that's ever been put together in this state to fight this potential outbreak," Macdonald said.

Farmers said there was growing concern over a simultaneous plague of mice. Both outbreaks have been sparked by the breaking earlier this year of Australia's worst drought in a century.

Rural Land Protection Board officials said 2,200 acres of mouse bait was laid around Narrabri on Thursday.

"They come with their dinner jackets on," New South Wales Commissioner Eggleston said of the mice, which particularly like yellow fields of canola now growing in the Narrabri district.


-----------------------------------
© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=6264103
 

TheQuixote

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African crops 'spared by locusts'

A locust invasion across swathes of West Africa has not severely affected food production, the UN says.

Despite fears the swarms would devastate crops and destroy harvests, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says actual losses are limited.

Mauritania has been the worst-affected country, with up to half of all cereal crops consumed by the insects.

Many swarms are still present in Mauritania and Niger but are now moving away from Mali and Senegal.

[...]

"Although the locusts damaged crops, it was often localised damage which did not have an important impact at a national level," he said.

[...]

The locust infestation is one of the most severe in a decade.

Swarms have invaded swathes of northwest Africa and flown across the continent.

Small swarms have even arrived as far north as Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete.

FAO had warned the situation might develop into a plague unless urgent control measures were taken.

Such measures have successfully prevented widespread damage to food crops, it says.

Currently swarms are flying northwards and have reached the foothills of the Atlas mountains in Morocco and Algeria.

Other swarms have reached the Cape Verde islands, northern Mali and Niger.

Countries have been urged to prepare themselves for another upsurge in locust numbers next year.

[...]

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/world/africa/3982857.stm
Published: 2004/11/04 16:37:07 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 

TheQuixote

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Pink locusts swarm through Cairo
Wed 17 November, 2004 14:27
By Amil Khan and Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Swarms of pink locusts have swept through Cairo in scenes that recalled the biblical plague of Egypt.

The swarms flew high above tall towers or swooped down onto treelined streets, where scared pedestrians stamped on them or ran for cover.

The flying insects arrived from neighbouring Libya after devouring the countryside in central and western Africa in past months. But locust experts said they were unlikely to wreak similar havoc in Egypt, where agriculture is a cornerstone of the economy.

"This is really horrible," said one man as he ran past a building where locusts, some of them more than 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, smacked into office windows or landed on cars.

[...]

In the Old Testament, locusts were the eighth of 10 plagues which God brought on the Egyptians before Pharaoh, their ruler, relented and let the enslaved children of Israel go.
© Reuters 2004
Source
 

Mighty_Emperor

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And on up into Israel:

Swarms Of Locusts Descend On Southern Israel

POSTED: 10:52 pm EST November 21, 2004
UPDATED: 10:55 pm EST November 21, 2004

EILAT, Israel -- Swarms of locusts devoured lawns and palm trees Sunday in southern Israel, panicking farmers and leaving others worried about biblical plagues.

The pests swept up from Egypt, working their way north on a path that could take them to the West Bank town of Jericho, where Secretary of State Colin Powell was slated to meet Palestinian officials Monday.

The red locusts originated in West Africa and traveled over Libya and Egypt. The insects are present every year in Africa, but this year's swarms are especially large due to prolonged periods of heavy rainfall, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Israel's Agriculture Ministry had not by Sunday reported serious damage to crops in the arid Arava and Negev deserts. Ministry planes were spraying onion, pepper and melon fields near Israel's southern borders with Egypt and Jordan.

Officials in the Red Sea resort of Eilat said many of the plants and trees in city parks had been stripped of their foliage by the pests. The locusts seemed to prefer palm and olive trees, basil, grape leaves and grass.

"If these pests land on my fields, it's all over," potato farmer Menachem Tzafrir told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. "They destroy a whole year's work in a matter of minutes."

Eilat residents on Sunday found their lawns blanketed in red with the insects. Some children questioned their parents if darkness, the ninth biblical plague after locusts, was soon to come.

According to the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament, the Egyptians suffered 10 plagues before Pharoah agreed to let the enslaved Israelites free. Locusts were the eighth plague.

"A Plague of Locusts," read the top headlines in Yediot and the Maariv daily news papers on Sunday. Both reported on the delight of Thai workers on southern farms, who consider the insects a delicacy.

Yediot included instructions for the culinary curious on how to grill the locusts "turning them over, until they yellow."

Rabbi David Batzri, a leading kabbalist -- or Jewish mystic -- blamed the locusts on poverty and urged Israelis to give to the poor to help expel the pests.

Agriculture Ministry officials said they were concerned that warm weather on Sunday could prompt the locusts to begin breeding. This would cause greater damage, since young locusts have large appetites, the officials told Yediot. But rain and colder weather was expected throughout the country on Monday.

The insects, which normally live between two and six months, eat their weight -- about 0.07 ounces ---- in crops every day. They can travel 120 miles a day.


------------------
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.
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Mighty_Emperor

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Throw another sky prawn on the Barbie Bruce!!!

Locusts rebranded as 'sky prawns'

Locals in eastern Australia ravaged by a plague of locusts could now take the ultimate revenge - eating them.

Two government workers have responded to the crisis by producing a specialist cookbook of more than 20 locust recipes called Cooking with Sky Prawns.

Co-author Edward Joshua said the "home delivery bush food" was nutritionally superior to beef.

Australia is suffering its worst locust plague in years, with millions moving across the state of New South Wales.

The locust plague has been sparked by the demise of the insects' predators during one of the worst droughts in Australia in the last 100 years.

The locusts' numbers have also been swelled by heavy rains which have triggered a surge in breeding. Vast areas of farmland have been devastated.

Mr Joshua, who is also acting agricultural protection officer with the NSW Department of Primary Industries, said it was hard to know when the swarms would be brought under control.

"We're really trying to keep a lid on the situation, and if there are crops on the ground and sheep and cattle to be sold next autumn, then we will have done our job," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

---------------
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/w ... 032143.stm

Published: 2004/11/22 12:18:49 GMT

© BBC MMIV
 

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Locusts Won't Cure Diabetes, Saudis Told


Nov 26, 7:31 AM (ET)

RIYADH (Reuters) - Saudi locust hunters who believe the insects hold a cure for diabetes were warned on Wednesday they could be crunching on a poisonous snack.

The official Saudi Press Agency quoted Ghazi Hawari, head of the desert kingdom's anti-locust center, as saying any swarm which crossed its borders would be sprayed with insecticide.

It said Hawari "warned against catching locusts and eating them in the belief that they are a cure for diabetes and stressed the danger of eating them after spraying operations."

Diabetes is a common affliction in many Gulf Arab countries.

Hawari said only a very small number of the locusts, which have swept through North Africa and into southern Israel, had so far reached into Saudi Arabia.
Source
 

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Locust swarms 'high' on serotonin
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7858996.stm
By James Morgan
Science reporter, BBC News



Swarms can devastate crops and cause serious economic hardship
It is one of nature's most radical transformations - the moment a crowd of harmless desert locusts begins to swarm into a devastating plague.

Now scientists from the UK and Australia say they have discovered the trigger - the brain chemical serotonin.

The molecule is best known in humans as a target of anti-depressant drugs.

The discovery could lead to new control strategies for the pests, which plague 20% of the world's land, they write in Science journal.

Desert locusts are known to swarm by the billions, inflicting severe hardship on farmers in parts of Africa, China and other areas.

But the insects actually spend much of their life in a harmless, "solitary" phase. To find that serotonin is what causes a normally shy, antisocial insect to gang up in huge groups is amazing

Dr Swidbert Ott,
Cambridge University

When food runs short, they slowly become clustered together and enter their "gregarious" phase, culminating in an aggressive swarm.

Prior to swarming, the locusts undergo a series of dramatic physical changes - their body colour darkens and their muscles grow stronger.

Cannot play media.You do not have the correct version of the flash player. Download the correct version
Advertisement
Timelapse footage showing how 'gregarious' locust is attracted to other locusts on the left-hand side of the chamber

To find out the chemical signal that triggers this metamorphosis, scientists from Oxford University, Cambridge University and Sydney University began monitoring locusts in the laboratory.

They triggered the gregarious behaviour by tickling the beasts' hind legs, to simulate the jostling they experience in a crowd.

They found that locusts behaving the most gregariously (in swarm-mode) had approximately three times more serotonin in their systems than their calm, solitary comrades.

"The question of how locusts transform their behaviour in this way has puzzled scientists for almost 90 years," said co-author Dr Michael Anstey, from Oxford University.

"We knew the [physical] stimuli that cause locusts' amazing Jekyll and Hyde-style transformation.


Gregarious locusts (L) and solitary (R) were once thought to be different species


"But nobody had been able to identify the changes in the nervous system that turn antisocial locusts into monstrous swarms.

"Now we finally have the evidence to provide an answer."

The team say their finding opens up a new idea for a locust control strategy - a chemical that inhibits serotonin and thus converts swarming locusts back to their solitary phase.

In humans, by contrast, keeping serotonin levels high is the aim of many anti-depressant drugs.

"Serotonin profoundly influences how we humans behave and interact," said co-author Dr Swidbert Ott, from Cambridge University.

"So to find that the same chemical is what causes a normally shy, antisocial insect to gang up in huge groups is amazing."
 

ramonmercado

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Have the Locusts devoured everyone else? I seem to be the only one posting.

Anyway, they're coming for you.

Global warming may worsen locust swarms
http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091007/ ... 9.978.html
Ancient records link a hotter climate to more damaging infestations.

Jane Qiu


Warmer weather in China has been linked to worse locust outbreaks.Kazuyoshi Nomachi / Science Photo Library

Analysis of Chinese historical records stretching back for over a thousand years show that locust outbreaks are more likely to occur in warmer and drier weather, especially in the country's northern provinces, researchers say.

"The results are an alarm bell for yet another serious consequence of climate change," says Ge Quansheng, deputy director of the Beijing-based Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who was not involved with the study.

The findings, by climate researcher Yu Ge and her colleagues at the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Jiangsu province, are published in the Journal of Geophysical Research1.

In population ecology, researchers have been debating what controls the size of species populations over long time periods. Some think that climate has a dominant role, whereas others hold that internal biological mechanisms, such as competition and predation, are more important.

To determine which model is correct, long-term data on changes in species populations are crucial. This has led researchers to turn to historical records of locust outbreaks. Such swarms can ravish crops, causing famine and consequent social unrest, so for more than 2,000 years, officials in China have recorded details of the outbreaks — such as their frequency and severity, the affected areas and the number of people who died of famine following infestations — with the aim of predicting and controlling them.

Locust focus
Around 50 years ago, Ma Shijun, a entomologist who worked at Peking University in Beijing, used these records to rank the severity of locust outbreaks — mainly in eastern China where agriculture is concentrated — over the past 1,000 years on a scale of one to ten2.

Ma's data were used by Yu and co-authors in the latest study, but their findings contradict an earlier study3 by University of Oslo ecologist Nils Stenseth and his colleagues. That work was based on the same data but showed that locust infestations are more likely to follow periods of cooler and wetter weather (see 'Cooler weather favours Chinese locusts'). So why did the groups come to drastically different conclusions?

"The results from Stenseth's group were rather curious," says Yu. They contradict several earlier studies, including Ma's, on the correlation between climate and locust outbreaks, and could not be explained by the biology of locust development, she adds.

“The results are an alarm bell for yet another serious consequence of climate change.”
Ge Quansheng
Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS
Digging a bit deeper, Yu and her colleagues noted that Stenseth's team used decadal temperature proxies for the whole of China to correlate records of locust outbreaks in eastern China. "China is a vast country," says Yu. "There are large variations in climate and [locust] plague problems at all corners of its territory." So northern and southern parts of China have very different climates, which can have a different impact on insect infestations.

Furthermore, locust eggs that have survived over winter, develop into adults in and breed in spring resulting in huge numbers of adults that migrate and swarm in summer. Each stage of their development is controlled by different climatic factors, so using decadal mean temperatures and precipitation might not be appropriate for the analyses of locust outbreaks, Yu adds. "Only regional and seasonal analyses could resolve the issues," she says.

Warm for swarms
Yu and her colleagues therefore analysed the relationship between climate and locust outbreaks on three different time scales. They first correlated the monthly temperatures and precipitation — as recorded by regional weather stations in the past 100 years — with locust outbreaks in northern and southern China, respectively.

Next, they determined if decadal temperature and precipitation for summer and winter — derived from other studies — were associated with locust outbreaks in the two regions for both the past 300 years and the past 1,000 years.

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The results show that a warmer climate was more likely to cause locust outbreaks in both regions. The team discerned an association between drier summer months and more frequent and severe swarms in the north but not in the south. "This might be because southern China is wetter [than northern China] in the first place and doesn't get as dry in the summer," says Yu.

In addition, the frequency of locust outbreaks in both areas went through cycles that were linked to regional temperatures for about 60% of the time over the past 1,000 years.

"The new study points to the importance of delineating regional and seasonal variations in climate-association studies," Ge says.

Stenseth agrees that the contradictory conclusions of the two studies are "probably explainable through the different spatial scales of the temperature proxies used".

Yu's study is an important contribution to our understanding of climate impact on locust plagues, he adds, and will help to devise mitigation strategies in response to global warming.

References
Yu, G., Shen, H. & Liu, J. J. Geophys. Res. 114, D18104, doi:10.1029/2009JD011833 (2009).
Ma, S. C. Acta Ent. Sinica 8, 1-40 (1958).
Stige, L. C., Chan, K.-S., Zhang, Z., Frank, D. & Stenseth, N. C. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 16188-16193 (2007).
 
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