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Plagues of Desert Locust: No invasion risk to China

By Yun-Ping Wang, Ming-Fei Wu, Pei-Jiong Lin, Yao Wang, Ai-Dong Chen, Yu-Ying Jiang, Bao-Ping Zhai, Jason W. Chapman, Gao Hu

Posted 05 Mar 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.03.03.973834

Recently, the most serious upsurge of desert locust ( Schistocerca gregaria ) in the last 25 years is spreading across eastern Africa and southwestern Asia. Parts of the desert locust ‘invasion area’, namely the northern border areas of Pakistan and India are very close to China, and whether locust swarms will invade China is of wide concern. To answer this question, we identified areas of potentially suitable habitat for the desert locust within China based on historical precipitation and temperature data, and found that parts of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia provinces could provide ephemeral habitat in summer, but these places are remote from any other desert locust breeding area. Presently, the desert locust populations in Pakistan and India are mature and have laid eggs, and are less likely to spread long distances. The next generation of adults will appear in April and May, and so we examined twenty years’ historical wind data (2000–2019) for this period. Our results showed that winds at the height of locust swarm flight blew eastward during April and May, but the wind speeds were quite slow and would not facilitate desert locust eastward migration over large distances. Furthermore, simulated trajectories of desert locust swarms with 10 days’ migration mostly ended within India. The most easterly point of these trajectories just reached eastern India, close to the border between India and Myanmar, and this is very close to the eastern border of the invasion area of desert locust described in previous studies. In conclusion, the risk that the desert locust will invade China is very low.

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