Science - January 8, 2004

Ethiopian finds locust breeding grounds

The destructive force of swarming desert locusts can be reduced by identifying their breeding grounds more effectively. Recent PhD graduate Dr Gebremedhin Woldewahid discovered that the majority of solitary desert locusts breed on just one type of field in East Africa.

“Woldewahid is the first to do systematic research on where the solitary desert locust is located,” says Dr Arnold van Huis, locust expert at the Laboratory of Entomology and the Ethiopian’s PhD supervisor. The locusts are found in an area of ten thousand square kilometres, so it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Once they swarm they are easier to locate, but then it’s already too late as they eat everything in sight. During his three years of research Woldewahid took samples in a coastal area of Sudan and discovered that the locusts confine themselves to fields of Heliotropium and millet, especially for breeding. The Plant Protection Service in Sudan is already using Woldewahid’s research results to monitor locust plagues. | G.v.M.