May 27 (UPI) -- India is experiencing a historic swarm of locusts as the country also deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and sweltering heat.
Swarms of desert locusts have descended upon portions of the states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya, Pradesh, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, while alerts were issued in the capital city of Delhi warning the insects could soon arrive there.
India's Locust Warning Organization has said at least 10 swarms of up to 80 million locusts have made their way through India, destroying crops.
The organization said locust infestation is the worst the country has ever seen, coming before their usual migration from Pakistan between July and October and extending far beyond Rajasthan, where they have historically been centralized.
Experts say that extreme heat in the nation, which has reached highs of 122 degrees, has contributed to the uncommonly large swarm.
"The outbreak started after warm waters in the western Indian Ocean in late 2019 fueled heavy amounts of rains over east Africa and the Arabian Peninsula," Dr. Roxy Mathew Koll, a senior scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, said. "These warm waters were caused by the phenomenon called the Indian Ocean Dipole -- with warmer than usual waters to its west and cooler waters to its east. Rising temperatures due to global warming amplified the dipole and made the western Indian Ocean particularly warm."
The swarms have destroyed about 123,500 acres of cropland in the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh states.
States, including Jaipur, have deployed drones to spray locusts in order to clear the areas of locusts.
"It has successfully contained the movement of locusts in an open area and on the foothills where it was not possible for the usual tractors to make it reach. A detailed assessment of its impact is being studied by the field officers," said Om Prakash, commissioner of the Jaipur state agriculture department.
The drones are attached with spray tanks that can disperse chemicals for 10 minutes before being refilled by a handler.
"The biggest advantage of the drone is that it can fly above the flying zone of the locusts giving the flexibility to the officials to carry out combat operation while they are flying. Earlier, the operations were restricted to when they are resting n a tree or on a crop," Prakesh said.