Locusts have long been a part of life in the countries located in northern and western Africa, but with the recent uprisings, especially in Libya, many of those countries ability to control the devastating swarms have been greatly reduced.
In a statement released by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) officials explained that the insects could potentially devastate crops in neighboring countries.
"How many locusts there are and how far they move will depend on two major factors – the effectiveness of current control efforts in Algeria and Libya and upcoming rainfall in the Sahel of West Africa," Keith Cressman, Senior Locust Forecasting Officer with FAO, said in a press release.
The reason for the increased presence of locusts is due in part to the continued instability brought on after the removal of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. This occurrence virtually stopped the monitoring and control of the insects and U. N. officials warned that large swaths of locust are traveling south from Libya and neighboring Algeria to Mali and Niger.
"In a normal year, Algeria and Libya would have been able to control most of the local swarms and prevent their movement towards the south, but insecurity along both sides of the Algerian-Libyan border is getting in the way of full access by local teams and by FAO experts who need to assess the situation," Cressman said.
The reason locusts are so disruptive to local agriculture is due to the great numbers of locusts found in the swarms. According to FAO swarms of locust can contain vast amounts of insects and travel great distances every day.
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Experts explained that swarms can be several hundred square miles and contain anywhere from 40 to 80 million individual insects per square mile. The swarms can also travel more than 100 miles in a single day.
Their appetite is also very large. Locusts consume their weight in vegetation every day, which may be a gram or two, but it is their sheer numbers that have the ultimate impact.
The U. N. is determined to combat the problem with the FAO's Commission for Controlling Desert Locust providing $700,000 in funding.