Outbreak of brown locusts in the Eastern Cape

Climate change and global warming used to be a very far-fetched phenomenon. This is no more the case these days as the poor communities and small-scale producers are the hardest hit by the impacts of this climate change. This is despite them being the least contributors. These impacts include drought, floods, outbreak of pests and diseases, just to mention a few.

In the early month of May 2022, Eastern Cape was attacked by swarms of brown locusts. Areas affected so far include Alice, Burnshill, Fort Cox, KwaMathole and some parts of Sundays River Valley Municipality. These pests are so voracious and destructive to both crops and pastures. When they get into a field, they leave literally nothing such that the farmer will have to start all over again. They normally do this in the early mornings and a swarm of these locusts can finish a hectare of vegetation in 30 minutes. This shows how dangerous these pests are.

How best to control the brown locusts

It is not very easy to control the brown locusts as they come in swarms and there is no pre-warning. However, there are some methods that farmers can employ to avoid losses from such. The following techniques can be used to control such disasters:

  • Use of shade net tunnels

  • Use of plastic tunnels

  • Baiting-Some chemical baits may be used at a small-scale. These baits are more environmental friendly as they simply attract the locusts to a certain point which is sticky and the locusts get stuck to the sticky wall.

  • Broadcasting moistened bran bait by hand in a ±1m wide barrier around the roost in the early morning, has proved a most effective manner of baiting

  • Field hygiene- Keeping our fields free of weeds including the peripheries assist to some extend in controlling the crawling locusts

  • Aerial sprays- This can be done by the Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform (DRDAR). Producers are advised to report any locust swarms in their areas to their local extension officers for quick control.

There are however some mixed feelings in Middle drift whereby some members of the communities are against the idea of aerial spraying for the locusts. They are fearful for their health and general environmental health. However, for some, spraying these locusts is the only viable control until a proper environmentally friendly control has been developed.

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