Swarm of unusual locusts descends on NSW

By AAP with AG Staff 3 November 2010
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A plague of locusts of a kind not normally found so far south is descending on the central west of New South Wales.

AUTHORITIES ARE ALARMED BY the unusual presence of a large swarm of spur-throated locusts threatening to destroy crops in the NSW central west.

The pests (Austracris guttalosa), which are larger and can consume more than the more common plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), are usually only found in Queensland and NSW’s far north. The swarm of mainly female spur-throated locusts has moved south, first appearing in the NSW central west on 29 October, northwest of Nyngan.

The adult female spur-throated locusts can grow up to 6.5 cm long, compared to 4.2 cm for an adult female plague locust, according to the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

“It’s quite out of the ordinary. They don’t normally come down this far,” says Lisa Thomas, central west senior ranger with NSW’s Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA). “We normally get the odd group, but to have a large swarm like this is unusual.”

Potentially more damage

The LHPA is now consulting the Australian Plague Locust Commission on how best to tackle the insects before they have a chance to lay too many eggs. Lisa says the spur-throated locust can potentially do more damage to crops than the plague locust.

“When you see the size of them, if you see them on your land you’d be pretty concerned about it,” she says. “They do have the ability to eat more just because of the sheer size.” There did not appear to be any particular reason why the spur-throated locusts had come south, Lisa adds.

Meanwhile, treatment of plague locusts is continuing across NSW, with reports of some swarms taking to the wing in the state’s northwest. Isolated and low density flying swarms have been found around Brewarrina and Bourke and further south near Carinda.