Saudi Arabia says ‘invasion’ of locusts almost over, threat from neighbors remains

Saudi Arabia cleared locusts from 369,391 hectares of land in the Kingdom between February 1 and May 28, the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture said.

The ministry said the general situation is now quieting down, after the “vicious” attack of swarms of locusts during the spring (locusts’ breeding season).

The ministry added that it performed intensive pest control operations during the past four months in Riyadh, Qassim, Hail, and Eastern Province

“The Kingdom was affected by an intense invasion of the desert locust swarms, as a result of the current outbreak which is entering its third year. The threat from neighboring countries remains due to the worsening situation there because of weak surveying and control operations,” the ministry said.

“We see the emergence of a season, different in range and timing, and swarms invade the Kingdom’s southern areas, and move north towards Riyadh, Najran, Asir, and perhaps the heights of Mecca and al-Baha.”

“This indicates that this is an irregular season, and that happens when there are desert locust outbreaks in Yemen, Oman and the Empty Quarter,” the ministry added.

After the pest control operations, the situation in the Kingdom will calm down starting from mid-July. Unless another invasion occurs and locusts swarm the heights of the southern regions, indicating that there is a “low-level threat” after swarms of locusts migrate from Iraq towards Yemen and Sudan through Saudi Arabia.

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.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization had said in its locust forecast until mid-June, that locust infestations will increase and extend further to areas in the Horn of Africa and southwest Asia.

“Breeding in the Arabian Peninsula caused hopper bands (masses of the “hopper” type of locusts) to form in parts of Saudi Arabia, Iraq and UAE, and hopper and adult groups in northern Oman.”