NEW DELHI — Magan Doodi, a groundskeeper at a golf course in Jaipur, was making his rounds earlier this week when he saw the sky suddenly turn a weird pink.
It wasn’t some quirk of the weather. It was locusts — millions of them, “like a spreading bedsheet,” he said.
“The locusts have attacked the golf course!” Mr. Doodi yelled into his cellphone during the battle Monday morning. “It’s man versus locusts!”
Scientists say it’s the worst attack in 25 years and these locusts are different.
“This time the attack is by very young locusts who fly for longer distances, at faster speeds, unlike adults in the past who were sluggish and not so fast,” said K.L. Gurjar, the deputy director of India’s Locust Warning Organization.
The locusts were flying in from Iran and Pakistan, blanketing half a dozen states in western and central India. Because most of the crops were recently harvested, the hungry swarms have buzzed into urban areas, eager to devour bushes and trees, carpeting whatever surface they land on.
On Monday, Jaipur, a sprawling city of 4 million and the biggest in the state of Rajasthan, was besieged. A blizzard of bugs flew over concrete buildings and the wealthier neighborhoods, swooping in on trees and plants, crossing graveyards and jewelry markets, attracted to the manicured golf course in the heart of the city.
After he saw what was happening, Mr. Doodi, the groundskeeper, yelled out to the caddies and other key personnel, urging them to make whatever loud noise they could to drive the bugs away. Some grabbed firecrackers. Others steel plates to bang on. Another person ran up to the roof of a maintenance building and started thumping on empty plastic containers, like drums.
Residents clamored to protect themselves and their flora, spilling onto the streets banging plates with spoons and jumping into parked cars to honk horns.
“I got out of my room and came out on my terrace at around 10 a.m. and saw a long shadow on the ground,” recalled Nikhil Misra, a lawyer in Jaipur. “I just stood still. It was something I had never seen in my lifetime.”
“I looked up and saw a cloud, not the cloud that gives you rainfall, but a cloud of locusts, thousands and thousands of them hovering over my head,” he said. “It was a silent attack. It was a strange kind of fear, as if being overtaken by aliens.”
Scientists say that this outbreak, similar to recent outbreaks in East Africa, is driven by the same factors: unusually warm weather and more rain. They blame climate change.
“All this started in late 2019, when there were warm waters in the western Indian oceans,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology in Pune. “These waters triggered lot of rains over the East African regions and the Arabian Peninsula. This seems to have triggered an ideal condition for breeding of locusts.”
Frequently Asked Questions and Advice
Updated May 27, 2020
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.
How can I protect myself while flying?
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)
How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?
Over 38 million people have filed for unemployment since March. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.
Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?
There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.
Can I go to the park?
Yes, but make sure you keep six feet of distance between you and people who don’t live in your home. Even if you just hang out in a park, rather than go for a jog or a walk, getting some fresh air, and hopefully sunshine, is a good idea.
How do I take my temperature?
Taking one’s temperature to look for signs of fever is not as easy as it sounds, as “normal” temperature numbers can vary, but generally, keep an eye out for a temperature of 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. If you don’t have a thermometer (they can be pricey these days), there are other ways to figure out if you have a fever, or are at risk of Covid-19 complications.
Should I wear a mask?
The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.
What should I do if I feel sick?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
How do I get tested?
If you’re sick and you think you’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, the C.D.C. recommends that you call your healthcare provider and explain your symptoms and fears. They will decide if you need to be tested. Keep in mind that there’s a chance — because of a lack of testing kits or because you’re asymptomatic, for instance — you won’t be able to get tested.
How can I help?
Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.
The movement of the swarms depends on the winds, which are blowing west to east and a little south right now. That could put the swarms in India’s bushy center very soon.
Already, they have overrun one of India’s renowned tiger reserves, Panna National Park, covering the trees in straight lines of countless insects, like a twitching bark.
The Indian government wants to tackle this regionally and has offered to set aside some of its differences with Pakistan to provide the neighboring country with pesticide to spray on its side of the border. India has made the same offer to Iran, which responded positively, Indian officials said.
Indian scientists said that in a single day, a modest locust swarm can travel 200 kilometers and eat as much food as about 35,000 people.