PLAGUES of locusts have been devouring their way through the state’s central west compounding the hardships suffered by drought-affected farmers.
More than 150 swarms have been reported to Biosecurity Queensland so far this year, with some reported to be more than 40ha in size and thick enough to “black out the sky”. While their activity has been dying down as winter approaches, there are fears eggs are lying dormant waiting to return in favourable weather conditions. There were only 15 swarms reported throughout the state from 2011 and 2013. But Biosecurity Queensland figures show there were 40 swarms reported in January, 59 in February, 43 in March and 16 in April and conducted aerial sprays over 20,000ha of central Queensland to tackle them.
Locust activity has been reported mostly in the central west including Blackall-Tambo, Emerald, Longreach, Barcaldine, Banana, Boulia, Cloncurry and Diamantina.
Jilly Peck, a farmer from Purtora, near Blackall, said last month her property had two swarms go past it in three weeks. “At first I thought it was a dust storm. I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “It didn’t do any damage because we didn’t have any grass to lose.”
Banana Shire Mayor Ron Carige said his council had undertaken spraying to address the pests, which was difficult as the swarms kept moving. “They’re a major bloody problem, they do a lot of destruction,” he said.
Blackall-Tambo Regional Council Mayor Barry Muir said he had heard reports from farmers west of Blackall of swarms that “just about blacked out the sky”. “It’s bad enough with the drought without the grasshoppers eating what’s left,” he said. “The worst part of it is when they go to ground and lay eggs again you don’t know where they’re coming out again.”