Locusts Wreak Havoc in Northern China Destroying the Dust Storm Barrier for Beijing and Tianjin

Zhou Tong

PureInsight | September 1, 2003

[] While heat waves sweep across southern China, locusts wreak havoc in northern China. According to the Chinese media, Jingtai County in Gansu Province experienced a rarely seen locust plague in July. Locusts covered 750,000 mu (1 mu = 0.16 acre) in the county, out of which about 300,000 mu (approximately 48,000 acres) were declared a severe disaster area. On average, 65 locusts per square meter (1 square m = 10.7 square ft) were discovered. In the severe disaster area, the density of locusts was up to 300 locusts per square meter. Such a locust plague has never been seen in the history of Jingtai County, and was rarely seen in Gansu Province as well.

During the morning of August 6th, at Fugongtan Grasslands in Zhangbei County, Hebei Province, 2,000 trained chickens, guided by whistles, began to feed on the locusts. According to a local pasturage department, about 40K mu grasslands suffered from locusts this year, with an average density of 624 locusts every square meter.

On August 2, upon awakening in the morning, residents of Hohhot City in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region discovered locusts approaching the city, covering the sky and the ground. Locusts were on all the windows and walls. Some even flew inside houses and fell onto beds. Locusts were everywhere and from time to time even landed on people's faces. People rushing to work had to hide their heads inside the collars of their shirts. One resident wanted to figure out how many locusts were in the grass. He stepped in the grass near the road and ran for a few steps. All of a sudden, a host of locusts flew out. After a while, he bent down and roughly counted heads. There were more than 200 locusts per square meter. Cars on streets and alleys in the city ran over locusts and the dead bodies of locusts piled up in mounds. Several trucks were dispatched to clear away the dead insects. "We have never seen so many locusts in the past" said one resident who has lived in Hohhot for over 40 years. "Locusts have spread from the grasslands to the cities."

Locusts, historically rare, are rampant in grasslands. The Xilinuole Prairie was on the edge of the Hunsandake Desert where Beijing dust storms originate. The prairie was on its way to recovery, becoming typical grassland again. However, the locust plague destroyed over 70 million mu of grassland. The locust plagues have appeared in Inner Mongolia since June. By now locusts have covered 169 million mu of grassland. One particularly devastated area spans 89 million mu.

Inner Mongolia has experienced locust plagues for the past four years. This year is the worst. Due to desertification of grasslands and climactic changes, the environment encourages ever more the growth and proliferation of large-scale locust populations. As a result, locust plagues have broken out more frequently. Two-thirds of the grasslands in Suniteyou Qi (county), the place where dust storms that hit Beijing and Tianjing originate, were ruined in the disaster. People from a relevant department said, "This year's locust plague was a big concern. Locusts have already laid eggs. If climactic conditions next year favor the growth of locusts, a large-scale locust plague will occur."

Locusts, floods and droughts are the three major disasters in China. During the past five years, these three major disasters occurr again and again in Mainland China.

When commenting on several major locust invasions, An Caiyong, an important Song dynasty writer said, "Locusts are caused by greed and corruption of the government." Humans can do nothing about it. Any action that goes against the will of the gods will be punished.

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