New Locusts Invade Victoria

In Australasia, News Headlines

Just when you thought you’d heard the end of the locusts, another species is now causing havoc around Mildura, in the state’s north-west.

Dryland farmers and public land managers spent a good part of last year battling Australian plague locusts, but this new threat is now hitting horticultural properties.

The Victoria’s plague locust commissioner confirmed yesterday that spur-throated locusts are around Mildura, and are stripping leaves from citrus trees and vines.

Mary Cannard is the industry development officer at the Murray Valley Citrus Board based in Mildura.

She’s seen the damage first-hand and says it is huge blow for the citrus industry.

“It’s indiscriminate damage from tree to tree; some trees are practically skeletonised where other trees are really full of half-chewed leaves.”

Ms Cannard says this species of locust is normally found in northern NSW and QLD, but it has made its way down south and it’s come at a time when the trees can least handle it.

“This is the time where we are really trying to size up our fruit to get it to a really nice size for our markets, and the loss of photosynthetic potential from the leaves to try and feed the fruit is really going to be a major problem for us.”

She says these locusts are look quite different to their Australian plague locust relatives.

“They are really enormous, and apparently some of them haven’t reached full size yet, from what I hear they can grow up to 7.5 centimetres.”

Ms Cannard says the pest is widespread and she has fielded calls from growers from as far south as Nangiloc, up to Ellerslie and at Monak.

However when it comes to controlling this pest, she says the options at the moment are nonexistent.

“We haven’t got any chemical that you can spray on a citrus tree specifically for a locust.”

She says she will seek recommendations from the Department of Primary Industries on potential chemical sprays that could be used; otherwise the damage could be devastating.

“If they weren’t controlled I think they’d just be eating everything in their path.”

Spur throated locust sits on an orange. (Deborah O’Callaghan)

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