Preventing desert locust plagues: optimizing management interventions

A. van Huis, K. Cressman, J.I. Magor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

60 Citations (Scopus)


Solitarious desert locusts, Schistocerca gregaria (Forskål) (Orthoptera: Acrididae), inhabit the central, arid, and semi-arid parts of the species¿ invasion area in Africa, the Middle East, and South-West Asia. Their annual migration circuit takes them downwind to breed sequentially where winter, spring, and summer rains fall. In many years, sparse and erratic seasonal rains support phase change and local outbreaks at only a few sites. Less frequently, seasonal rains are widespread, frequent, heavy, and long lasting, and many contemporaneous outbreaks occur. When such seasonal rains fall sequentially, populations develop into an upsurge and eventually into a plague unless checked by drought, migration to hostile habitats, or effective control. Increases in the proportion of gregarious populations as the plague develops alter the effectiveness of control. As an upsurge starts, only a minority of locusts is aggregated into treatable targets and spraying them leaves sufficient unsprayed individuals to continue the upsurge. Spraying all individuals scattered within an entire infested zone is arguably both financially and environmentally unacceptable. More of the population gregarizes and forms sprayable targets after each successive season of good rains and successful breeding. Eventually, unless the rains fail, the entire upsurge population becomes aggregated at high densities so that the infested area diminishes and a plague begins. These populations must continue to increase numerically and spread geographically to achieve peak plague levels, a stage last reached in the 1950s. Effective control, aided by poor rains, accompanied each subsequent late upsurge and early plague stage and all declined rapidly. The control strategy aims to reduce populations to prevent plagues and damage to crops and grazing. Differing opinions on the optimum stage to interrupt pre-plague breeding sequences are reviewed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-214
JournalEntomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • schistocerca-gregaria forsk
  • phase-change


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