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Can Drones Control Locusts in India?

Image by Charles J Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography, sharpphotography, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Locusts are invading India and other parts of the world in large numbers.  The locusts do tremendous crop damage when they swarm, consuming all of the crops in their path.  Spraying pesticides is the primary method of controlling the swarm, but the scale of the invasion makes traditional spraying methods insufficient.  Now, experts are adding crop spraying drones to the mix.

In India, as many as 700 tractors; 75 fire engines; almost 50 other vehicles; and an undefined number of drones are engaged in spraying pesticides to kill the locusts, says Trilochan Mohapatra, director general of the state-run Indian Council of Agricultural Research in New Delhi.  MSNBC reports that the ministry explained that these uncontrolled swarms breed continuously.  Most of them settle on trees during the night and fly during the day.

By Charles J Sharp – Own work, from Sharp Photography, CC BY-SA 4.0. 

If you don’t have personal experience with locusts, here is what Wiki has to say about them:

These grasshoppers are normally innocuous, their numbers are low, and they do not pose a major economic threat to agriculture. However, under suitable conditions of drought followed by rapid vegetation growth, serotonin in their brains triggers a dramatic set of changes: they start to breed abundantly, becoming gregarious and nomadic (loosely described as migratory) when their populations become dense enough. They form bands of wingless nymphs which later become swarms of winged adults. Both the bands and the swarms move around and rapidly strip fields and cause damage to crops. The adults are powerful fliers; they can travel great distances, consuming most of the green vegetation wherever the swarm settles.

“At this point it’s manageable, but if it continues, it will be a problem” for monsoon-sown crops, said Mohapatra, who’s the top bureaucrat at the department of agricultural research and education. The department hopes that the impact will be lessened by the current spraying campaign, assisted by the fact that the harvest of the winter crop is mostly over.

People can and do eat locusts, which are viewed as a good source of protein and are kosher.   They are mostly served and eaten in some African, Middle Eastern and Asian counties, where they are a delicacy and are consumed in large servings.

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