Mexico prepares for the arrival of a swarm of locusts that could destroy crops

As though the coronavirus pandemic hasn’t been challenging enough to Mexico, now comes a new threat that worries authorities and citizens: a large swarm of locusts moves over Belize and could be heading towards the southeast of Mexico in the next few days.

This was explained Friday by the Plant Health Committee of Quintana Roo (Cesaveqroo), according to information from the newspaper El Financiero. The agency detailed that the pest could devour up to 400 plant species, and destroy crops of corn, beans, rice, soybeans, peanuts, sugar cane, chili, tomato, citrus, banana, coconut, and grassland, among others.

The insects, which move over Belize in swarms, will affect Quintana Roo and the Yucatan Peninsula. Although the secretariats of the state governments have not yet announced the strategy that they will implement to prevent these swarms from destroying thousands of hectares, the National Service for Health, Safety and Agro-Food Quality (Senasica) is carrying out a permanent phytosanitary campaign to control the presence and expansion insect in the Mexican territory.

According to the agency’s information, monitoring is carried out in Campeche, Chiapas, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo, San Luis Potosí, Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Yucatán. And it consists of three strategic actions: exploration, sampling and control.

“The objective of the exploration is to detect locust populations and consists of making walking tours in the main gregarious areas with the support of cutting-edge technology, which includes the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or drones and a specific mobile application “, explains Senasica.

Once a population is located, the technicians continue the work of the second level.

“When any population is detected, sampling is carried out in order to determine the average population density (number of locusts / m2) and subsequently define the most appropriate control method.”

To exterminate the pest, two control techniques are carried out: chemical or biological. The first is done through the application of recommended products, such as methyl parathion, Fipronil, Malation, Cypermethrin, Z-Cypermethrin, Deltamethrin, and Diflubenzuron. For its part, the biological consists of the use of entomopathogenic fungus diluted in oil.

In addition to Senasica’s operational strategy against locust, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader) allocated 25 million pesos this year to the campaign against the insect, in order to protect 58 million tons of food per year, worth 70 billion pesos.

The Central American flying locust can wipe out acres of crops and entire grasslands. With tourism dying, the blow of this plague to the primary sector of Yucatan or Quintana Roo could be devastating.

The insect, which can be 6.5 centimeters long and travels at a speed of approximately 200 kilometers per hour, is capable of feeding on up to 400 different species of plants. In Mexico, their favorite crops are corn, sugar cane, and beans.

If their reproduction is not controlled, the insect can form “sides and sleeves that cover from meters to square kilometers”, and travel long distances.

Although in recent years in Mexico, the phytosanitary actions promoted by Senasica have prevented them from destroying vegetation surfaces, grasslands, and crops, between the second half of 2020 and the middle of 2022 the environmental conditions and biological cycles of the species are expected to provoke new outbreaks. In addition to those swarms that can come from neighboring countries.

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