China is planning to send up to 100,000 ducks to Pakistan to help the country contain a huge plague of locusts.
Locusts have erupted into plague proportions in East Africa and countries on both sides of the Red Sea – affecting Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Oman – due to the strong monsoon.
The locust swarm spread right across the Gulf to Pakistan, which declared a state of emergency because of this earlier this month.
After a request for help from Islamabad, the Chinese government sent a locust plague prevention and control team to the South Asian country. Ningbo Evening News reported that “an army” of as many as 100,000 ducks would be “deployed” to Pakistan soon on behalf of China to try to eliminate the marauding locusts.
Locusts can be killed either by insecticides or their predators, Lu Lizhi, a researcher at the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, said.
From the perspective of environmental protection, using predators is better than spraying insecticide, as the latter would cost more and create pesticide residues, Lu said. Deploying predators to eliminate locusts would cause no environmental pollution and would be good for the food chain, he added.
In this case, chickens and ducks have higher “combat” capabilities than frogs and birds, he said. Ducks were a better choice than chickens as they like to live in groups and can be easily managed. They were also more resilient and better able to forage, more resistant to cold and able to survive in the wild.
“A duck can kill whole families of locusts,” Lu said, adding that a chicken can eat about 70 locusts a day while a duck is three times stronger – it can eat more than 200 locusts a day.
Lu said ducks seek and destroy locusts, including their pupae. He said after winning the war against locusts, ducks can contribute to the economy by becoming a delicious meal for humans.
The first batch of 100,000 “duck soldiers” are expected to be deployed to support Pakistan’s locust control plan. Duck seedlings can arrive in Pakistan by air within a day.
Thousands of ducks were sent to Xinjiang in western China to eat locusts 20 years ago, according to a viral video titled “100,000 ‘duck soldiers’ deployed to Xinjiang as 400 billion locusts approach China at its border with India and Pakistan.”
The video shows a “duck army” marching along a road to a swarm of locusts and eating up their “enemies.”
Netizens were amazed by the video and they said they hoped to see more “great events” involving ducks eating up locusts.
Desert locusts are one of the most dangerous migratory pests in the world. They can fly 150 kilometers with the wind per day. A locust can eat crops equivalent to its own weight every day. And a swarm of locusts covering an area of one square kilometer can consume food that could feed up to 35,000 people a day.
The Food and Agriculture Organization – a branch of the United Nations – has said that from February to mid-March this year the weather on both sides of the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa should remain favorable for locusts to breed.
A new generation of desert locusts will be produced every month at temperatures of about 40℃ while each generation can survive up to three months. The number of locusts can increase by up to 20 times with each generation. Without factors to hinder their growth, a locust plague will expand exponentially.
Experts said desert locusts bred widely in East African countries due to the unconventional wet weather in the region last year.
They said locust eggs may hatch between March and April and increase by 500-fold and attack up to 30 Asian and African countries in June if no action is taken.
They warned that a second locust plague could cause devastating destruction to humans’ food sources.
This article was written by Xu Jiangshan and first published on ATimesCN.com. It was translated by Xu Yuenai.