Locusts poised to destroy Australia's crops

After the worst drought in a century, farmers face threat of insect swarms up to four miles long and more than 500 feet wide

It's a hard life raising crops in Australia, as farmers often remind the 85 per cent of Australians who live on the coast. Recent rains in New South Wales provided a bit of relief from the worst drought in a century, but now those living on the land face another challenge: locusts.

Swarms of the crop-munching insects are sweeping across drought- affected areas and feasting on grass and weeds sprouting at roadsides following the rain. In western New South Wales, near the country town of Condobolin, a swarm measuring four miles long by 560 feet wide was spotted last week.

The extra food could increase the number of eggs that the locusts lay, with the next generation expected to begin hatching in mid-December. That is a nightmare prospect for farmers as they prepare to harvest their crops, in some cases for the first time in several years, after successive crop failures caused by the drought.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology, meanwhile, is forecasting a swelteringly hot summer that will add to farmers' woes, as well as increasing the likelihood of bushfires and their ferocity. On the coast, amid rising ocean temperatures, record numbers of jellyfish have been recorded, along with giant schools of baby sharks.

The locusts have been sighted in plague numbers across large areas of New South Wales, where the state government has distributed enough chemicals to spray nearly 200 square miles on hundreds of properties. The state's primary industries minister, Ian Macdonald, said that many hoppers, or juveniles, would grow wings over the next few weeks, so it was important to control numbers before that happened. Nine locust-busting planes are also on standby to treat the swarms if they grow larger or thicker. At the moment, they are rated as low or medium density.

Mr Macdonald sought to reassure farmers, saying there was no need to panic. "We are monitoring the situation," he said. "It's important to realise that most of the state's crops are in the final stages of maturity and close to harvest, so are brown in colour. Fortunately this means they are not as attractive to locusts, which prefer green plants." He warned, however, that "anything growing at this point of time would be attacked fairly severely by locusts".

The insects are notoriously voracious, swarming through an area and consuming everything in sight, particularly green vegetation. There are stories of them eating green clothes hanging on washing lines, stripping green paint off walls or water tanks, and destroying green shade-cloth. Adult locusts can travel more than 400 miles in a single night's flight, and they lay up to 50 eggs each at one time.

This year's outbreak is forecast to be the worst since 2004, when locusts bred furiously following floods and went on to devastate crops in two states. In 2001, swarms containing 100 billion insects were recorded. Australian authorities battling the pests have sometimes been assisted by good fortune. In the past, large numbers have perished after landing in the ocean by mistake.

Mr Macdonald said: "We're calling on farmers to remain very vigilant and to keep checking their properties, because if we do get further hatching and further development of locusts, these swarms could end up quite large and pose further problems."

One farmer, Selwyn Geddes, told Country News website that he had no time to spray the insects because he was too busy harvesting. "At one end of the paddock we have sheep and at the other we have hoppers," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Extras
indybest
News
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
education
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform