The second invasion of desert locusts is likely to hit East Africa within a few weeks, environmental experts warned Tuesday. The insects were currently laying eggs along their migration path through several East African nations, which would likely hatch between March and April and pose a serious threat to the coming planting season and food security, the Climate Prediction and Application Centre (ICPAC) of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa said in a statement.
Hundreds of millions of the voracious insects have swept across Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya in what the U.N. has called the worst outbreak in a quarter of a century, with Uganda, Eritrea and Djibouti also affected. Desert locusts, whose destructive infestations cause major crop damage, are a species of grasshopper that live largely solitary lives until a combination of conditions promotes breeding and leads them to form massive swarms. Swarms that formed in eastern Ethiopia and northern Somalia have moved through the region.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says the current invasion is known as an "upsurge," when an entire region is affected, however, if it gets worse and cannot be contained, over a year or more, it would become what is known as a "plague" of locusts. There have been six major desert locust plagues in the 1900s, the last of which was in 1987-89. The last major upsurge was in 2003-05.