After Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, a swarm of locusts, which destroy crops, have invaded the eastern part of Maharashtra over the past five days, PTI reported on Tuesday.

Agricultural department personnel have begun to spray chemicals on crops and other vegetation to save them from the pests. The Central Integrated Pest Management Centre have sprayed these chemicals near the Jalalkheda bypass where the insects were located.

“The swarm of desert locusts entered the state from Amravati district,” Agricultural Department Joint Director Ravindra Bhosale told PTI. “It then went to Wardha and now it is in Nagpur’s Katol tehsil. Central agencies in this field had alerted us about the locust attack and necessary information had been passed on to villagers as well.”

Bhosale added that around 1,200 litres of water have been sprayed with insecticides. He said he is personally monitoring the operations.

“Locusts are very dangerous to all types of vegetation,” Bhosale said. “They feed on green leaves and [are] known for devouring crops spread across acres of land.”

The crop-eating pests had first entered Rajasthan from Pakistan in the second week of April. They destroyed crops in 18 districts of Rajasthan and a dozen in Madhya Pradesh.

The worst locust outbreak seen in a quarter of a century is currently ravaging West India
and endangers India’s food security. Several waves of locust attacks are expected from now until early July, due to spring breeding in southern, Iran and southwest Pakistan, according to experts. The United Nations warned earlier this month that armies of locusts swarming across continents pose a “severe risk” to India’s agriculture this year.

Scientists believe there is a connection between climate change and locust attacks. Locusts thrive in wet conditions, with attacks following cyclones and floods. As greenhouse gases continue to heat the ocean and the atmosphere, floods and cyclones are becoming more common, increasing the possibility of frequent locust attacks.

In 2019, locusts from Pakistan damaged crops in Gujarat. It was the first time since 1993-’94 that Gujarat witnessed such a locust invasion. The Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state had then blamed the Congress government in Rajasthan. “We have controlled locusts from Pakistan but the swarms from Rajasthan are uncontrollable,” Gujarat Agriculture Minister Ranchodbhai Faldu had said.

The locust invasions this year come in the wake of a national lockdown imposed to combat the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus. It is feared that the shutdown of the economy due to the lockdown would result in huge losses for all sectors, including agriculture.