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How Do You Stop a Plague of Locusts?

Back in 2020, when a plague of locusts was wreaking havoc in Pakistan, a report in the Ningbo Evening News went viral, claiming that China would be sending 100,000 ducks to Pakistan to help quell the insect scourge. A duck is capable of eating more than 200 locusts a day, and China had used ducks to fight off a similar infestation once before, in the Xinjiang region.

But despite the hype, the report was false, a spokesman for China Agricultural University said. “Ducks rely on water, but in Pakistan’s desert areas, the temperature is very high,” explained Zhang Long, who advised Pakistan to use pesticides instead.

Ducks vs. locusts:

  • Locust swarms can fly up to 90 miles (150 km) a day with the wind and eat as much as roughly 35,000 people, so it's understandable to entertain the idea of ducks as an affordable and environmentally-friendly pest control method.

  • Chickens enjoy eating locusts, too, but ducks seem to be the locust-fighting animal of choice. “Ducks like to stay in a group, so they’re easier to manage than chickens,” a researcher said. Besides, the average chicken can only eat about 70 locusts a day.

  • Keith Cressman, a locust forecaster with the Food and Agriculture Organization, debunks ducks as a solution against swarms. “There are not enough ducks,” he says, “and they cannot eat enough desert locusts to have a significant impact.”

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