Residents have taken to Twitter to share “apocalyptic” scenes of the winged insects swarming the air, with some claiming the invasion has parallels with biblical plagues. Horrifying videos show the insects covering streets and buildings. The insect population has apparently exploded due to an unusually warm summer.
One Twitter user wrote: “In Krasnoyarsk, an invasion of flies. All the things in 2020 remind me of ten Egyptian plagues. Have you all been waiting for the end of the world in 2012? Wrong by 8 years. #apocalypse2020”
Another added: “Krasnoyarsk is overrun with insects. We tell who it is and when it will all end.”
A third person said: “Crowds of insects attacked Krasnoyarsk.
“Locals have complained that it is impossible to be on the street – but motorists are not happy either. 2020 is on track.”
A fourth wrote: “We have an invasion of winged aphids in our city. Looks creepy.”
It comes as scientists have identified a chemical compound released by locusts that causes them to swarm, opening the door to possible new ways to prevent these insects from devouring crops vital to human sustenance as they have for millennia.
Researchers said on Wednesday they identified the pheromone – a chemical produced by an animal that affects the behavior of others of its own species – in the world’s most widespread locust species, the migratory locust, or Locusta migratoria.
Called 4-vinylanisole (4VA), it is primarily released from the hind legs and is detected by the antennae of other locusts and sensed by odorant receptors, the researchers said.
4VA powerfully attracted locusts regardless of age or sex, the research published in the journal Nature showed. Its production was triggered in the insects when as few as four to five solitary locusts came together, precipitating swarming behaviour.
Research leader Le Kang, a professor of entomology and ecology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Zoology, explained the cause of serious locust swarms.
He said: “In human history, locust plagues, drought and flood were considered as three major natural disasters which caused serious agricultural and economic losses all over the world.
“As the most widely distributed and one of the most dangerous locust species, the migratory locust represents a serious threat to agriculture worldwide.”
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Swarms can include billions of locusts and span hundreds of square miles as the insects voraciously consume crops, imperiling food security.
Migratory locusts inhabit Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, attacking pastures and critical crops such as wheat, rice, corn, millet, barley, oats, sugarcane and sorghum.
Professor Kang said further research is needed on whether 4VA exists in other locust species such as the desert locust, called Schistocerca gregaria, that currently is ravaging parts of Africa and the Middle East.
The chemical insecticides currently used to suppress locust outbreaks raise concerns about human health and safety. The identification of 4VA could inspire new methods.