Locust kebab anyone? New ways to tackle swarms

Who's up for some locust kebab?

While some may not think that sounds like the most appetizing dish - turning the tables on the voracious insect is just one of the novel ways that Kenyan scientists are exploring to tackle swarms that have devastated crops across East Africa.

Chrystanus Tanga is a researcher at the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi.

"When you go to some of those remote areas where the locust swarms are actually prevailing, a lot of people are eating them. So we think with this background, we think it is something to promote so that a lot more people should engage in this practice rather than shying away and thinking that it is a primitive man's food."

The number of locusts in East Africa exploded in late 2019, flying west from Yemen and reaching, so far this year, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

The World Bank estimates the cost to East Africa and Yemen this year could be 8.5 billion US dollars.

Chemicals in pesticides used to control the swarms can damage other insects and the environment, so ICIPE scientists are exploring other environmentally friendly options - including using locusts as human and animal food, and biopesticides.

ICIPE was part of a group that discovered an isolate from a fungus - now used across the region - that kills locusts without harming other creatures.

Researchers are now poring through 500 other fungi and microbes for another locust poison and they're also investigating scents.

According to ICIPE research, before locusts can fly they stay in a group due to a unique smell, which changes as they mature.

By disseminating an adult smell, researchers think the young locusts will become disorientated and the swarms will disintegrate - in turn leading the locusts to cannibalize each other.

For locusts, their demise could be a case of eat, or be eaten.

Video Transcript

- Who's up for some locust kebab? While some may not think that sounds like the most appetizing dish, turning the tables on the voracious insects is just one of the novel ways that Kenyan scientists exploring to tackle swarms that have devastated crops across East Africa. Chrystanus Tanga is a researcher at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology Nairobi.

- They've gone to some of those remote areas where the locust swarms are actually prevailing. A lot of people are eating them. So we think with this background, we think it's something to promote so that a lot more people should engage in this practice rather than shying away, thinking that it is a primitive man's food.

- The number of locusts in East Africa exploded in late 2019, flying west from Yemen and reaching so far this year Kenya and Somalia and Ethiopia. The World Bank estimates the cost to East Africa and Yemen this year could be $8.5 billion US. Chemicals and pesticides used to control the swarms can damage other insects and the environment. So ICIPE scientists are exploring other environmentally friendly options, including using locusts as human and animal food and biopesticides.

ICIPE was part of a group that discovered an isolate for a fungus now used across the region that kills locusts without harming other creatures. Researchers are now poring through 500 other fungi and microbes for another locust poison. And they're also investigating scents.

According to ICIPE research, before locusts can fly, they stay in a group due to the unique smell, which changes as they mature. By disseminating an adult smell, researchers think the young locusts will become disoriented, and swarms will disintegrate, in turn leading the locusts to cannibalize each other. For locusts, their demise could be a case of eat or be eaten.