Victorian Government field staff have detected small isolated incidents of early low-density locust hatchings between Swan Hill and Kerang.
While visiting Swan Hill, Agriculture Minister Joe Helper said the presence of immature locusts (or nymphs) had been discovered near Mystic Park. Other sites around the area have been investigated but no locust hatching activity has been discovered.
“In one case it appears recent rains have washed away soil, exposing locust egg pods to sunlight and therefore warmth, prompting them to hatch,” Mr Helper said.
“While we will continue to monitor these latest incidents, the prevailing cool weather conditions means there is a low risk of crop damage.
“Locusts are more active in warm weather, so in cool conditions they will be slower to mature, more susceptible to birds and other animals, and not feed as actively. Many may not survive to maturity.”
Department of Primary Industries (DPI) entomologist and Victorian Plague Locust Commissioner Gordon Berg said to date the hatchings were of a small scale and would most likely have minimal impact on landholders or the community.
“We also know that not all locust eggs in a population go into diapause, which is a dormant stage that usually prevents them from hatching in cold conditions,” Mr Berg said.
“Therefore it is possible similar small scale hatchings could take place in other parts of Northern Victoria over the next couple of months.
“We would ask anyone who sees what they think are locusts hatching to report it to the DPI locust hotline, on 1300 135 559.
“Despite the latest hatchings, the vast bulk of predicted locust hatchings will still take place in spring – and will vary depending on local conditions.”
The Brumby Labor Government has invested $43.5 million in the war on locusts, including;
- Ordering $4.2 million worth of chemicals to treat 600,000 hectares of public land,
- Providing a 100 per cent rebate for the costs of chemicals for farmers to spray locusts on their properties;
- Tailoring an $850,000 package to local councils to assist them fight the locust threat;
- Declaring the locust an exotic threat which requires landholders to report locust activity and treat locusts on their property;
- Announcing five locust incident control centres in Bendigo, Horsham, Mildura, Swan Hill and Tatura to be staffed by up to 400 people at the height of the locust threat; and
- Ensuring we have on stand by both fixed-wing planes and helicopters to undertake surveillance and aerial spray where possible.
(Audio available from www.premier.vic.gov.au)