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The skies above southeastern Mexico darkened last Tuesday afternoon as miles-long swarms of locusts flooded over Mérida, the capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán.
One Latin American newspaper covering the incident quoted the Book of Revelation 9:3, ‘And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth, and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.’
But local officials were less dire, telling reporters that the locusts were expected to finish passing through the city in about two days without endangering local crops.
Technically known as the Central American locust (CAL), the insect is native to the region and hit Yucatán’s capital from rural, vegetation-rich regions to its northwest.
Yucatán, famously home to the infamous Chicxulub impact crater that heralded the apocalyptic end of the dinosaurs, is located far south of the US-Mexican border.
Yucatán, home to the Chicxulub crater that heralded the end of the dinosaurs, is located far to south of the US-Mexican border. The American southwest has faced ‘Biblical’ waves of Mormon crickets this year, but there’s no indication Mérida’s locust swarm will reach the US
While the American southwest has suffered ‘Biblical’ waves of millions of Mormon crickets, killer bees and other insects this past year, there’s no indication that Mérida’s locust swarm will reach the US yet.
Last year, however, a research initiative at Arizona State University came to the conclusion that the intensity of locust swarms is likely to ‘dramatically increase’ worldwide due to climate change — threatening crops and raising food prices.
According to local news reports from publimetro, the locust swarms were at their thickest in the western and northern areas of the state capitol.
But the insects, known as the Central American locust (CAL) or Schistocerca piceifrons, were also spotted in the smaller nearby tows of Chuburna, Villas Oriente, Temozón Norte, and Colonia Gonzalo Guerrero.
Yucatán is frequently plagued by S. piceifrons locust swarms, which can consume a staggering 30 tons of vegetation per day, impacting 14.6 million acres of land, the state’s locust program coordinator, Mario Poot-Pech, said in a recent report.
‘The CAL is an old pest in Mexico,’ Poot-Pech, who serves on the Yucatán State Plant Protection Committee, wrote in the Journal of Orthoptera Research.
Climate conditions, like the status of the El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the current state of the local vegetation and the bug’s natural predators are all indicators that Poot-Pech hopes to use to predict future locust outbreaks
Video of Tuesday afternoon’s swarms was posted to Facebook by resident Gonzalez Jose and a local theoretical chemist, Professor Gabriel Merino, who runs the Merino Lab at Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados Unidad Mérida.