The mandate of the Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC), agreed between the five Member Governments (the Australian Government and the Member States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland) which jointly fund APLC, is to monitor and manage three pest locust species which pose a threat to agriculture in more than one Member State. This reflects the nature of these locust species, which can readily multiply in one state before migrating to another state where they cause significant damage and economic loss.
In order to gather information regarding the extent and locations of any pest locust populations, APLC officers undertake regular structured field surveys targeting known or suspected locust populations and taking into account factors such as rainfall and habitat condition. These surveys are supplemented by information obtained through contact with landholders, state agency officers and others in regional areas of inland eastern Australia.
The APLC operates under specific biosecurity legislation in each of the Member States. Its staff are appointed as Authorised Officers, and are permitted to enter properties to carry out surveillance and sampling of locusts under the provisions of the following State Acts:
Relevant Act/s and Sections/s
Biosecurity Act 2014 – section 261
New South Wales
Local Land Services Act 2013 – section 172
Plant Diseases Act 1924 – section 13
Plant Biosecurity Act 2010 – section 76
Plant Health Act 2009 – sections 43 and 44
Each of these Acts also imposes certain obligations on APLC officers who are entering properties for locust surveys. To ensure that APLC officers meet these obligations, specific training is provided to all staff covering the legislation of each Member State. Some States also issue a Notice or declare a Program under their legislation covering the monitoring and management of locusts in that State. Further details of the authorities, obligations and provisions covering the legislative authority under which APLC operates can be obtained by viewing the relevant Act on the website of each Member State.
All APLC officers undertaking field surveys are issued with an appropriate identification card by each Member State which identifies the officer and the authorities under which they operate. When engaging with landholders before or during survey on a property, APLC officers will display this card as their official identification.
In-field surveys by APLC usually commence with structured ground surveillance of appropriate areas. Transects are taken at regular intervals alongside roadways, where locust species, development stage and density are recorded. This may involve entry by foot or by vehicle onto public or privately held land. In some cases, samples of locusts present may also be taken for identification purposes or to assist in APLC various research projects.
If significant, high-density locust populations are found or suspected of being present in an area, the APLC may use aerial survey to determine how widespread they are. Aerial survey for locust nymphs or hoppers is usually undertaken in fixed-wing aircraft traversing an area at flying heights of 500 to 1000 metres above ground level. Aerial survey for swarms of flying locusts involves the use of helicopters at much lower levels, as locust swarms are less readily visible than high-density nymphs. Helicopter survey of swarms may involve flying over areas as low as 20 metres above ground level. Prior to undertaking helicopter surveys, APLC will make contact with affected landholders to ensure that the potential impact of these activities on landholder operations is discussed and managed.
The information gathered through APLC ground and aerial surveys and from other sources is compiled and presented in the Locust Bulletin, which is released monthly during each locust season.
Locust Control Operations
While the APLC may be authorised under legislation in some Member States to undertake locust control without the direct permission of landholders, APLC maintains a strict policy of obtaining “informed consent” from individual landholders prior to implementing any locust control.
This informed consent is obtained through direct contact between and APLC officer and the landholder prior to any locust control by APLC. Details of the exact location of the proposed control on the property, the control agent to be used and the subsequent withholding periods for crops and livestock are provided to the landholder. Other issues, such as any hazards or restrictions to spraying areas, are also identified during this consultation. Only after explicit informed consent is obtained from the landholder will APLC implement locust control on the property.
Further information regarding the control agents and application technology used by APLC are provided in the Locust Control Operations section of this website.
APLC Staff Standards
All APLC Officers are employed as Australian Public Servants, are subject to an evaluation of suitability (including police checks), and are obliged to abide by the Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct. New staff participate in a formal APLC Induction Program covering all aspects of their role and responsibilities. Both new and ongoing staff are subject to medical assessment to ensure their fitness for duty.
APLC employs a competency-based training program to address the particular needs associated with the specialised nature of APLC operations and for which no alternative external service provider exists. This includes:
- Conducting ground and aerial surveys to assess locust populations and environmental conditions.
- Participation in locust control campaigns, including aerial and ground target search and marking, and assessment of control efficacy.
Officers who have not yet attained competence are not authorised to perform identified tasks without the direct supervision of a suitably qualified and experienced APLC officer. This manages the risks to both the APLC officer and the landholders and communities affected by APLC operations.
Throughout Australia, primary control of locusts is the responsibility of the landholder. Officers from the relevant state authorities (listed below) are available to provide technical assistance,do inspections and advise on control techniques. These officers should be your first point of contact when reporting locust infestations or making inquiries about locust control.
Contact phone numbers for your nearest office can be found in your local telephone directory.
The most effective way for landholders to control locusts is by ground spraying the hoppers when they have formed into dense aggregations called bands. A number of insecticides are registered for locust control but these vary from state to state and over time. The time available for controlling an outbreak of locusts is short. Hoppers take about 5 weeks to develop into swarming adults. Hoppers are much easier to control than swarming adults. The hoppers usually take 1-2 weeks after hatching to form into dense bands suitable for spraying.
Cultivating fields where locusts have laid eggs will have some impact on individual egg beds, but egg laying often occurs in areas where ploughing is not possible (for example, in hard soil along roads or tracks). Although there are a number of natural enemies of locusts such as birds, spiders and insects,these have not been shown to effectively reduce locust numbers when population is increasing rapidly during an outbreak.
During a locust outbreak the APLC and state or local biosecurity agency staff may contact or visit you to check locust reports or to obtain consent to undertake control. Consent is often obtained from many landholders in advance of any anticipated control. However, this is no guarantee that control will be undertaken on your property and you should continue to implement control measures on your property. Control by landholders that may involve provision of insecticide by state or local government or regional biosecurity agency staff, may also involve separate consultation and documentation.
The APLC carries out control over large areas where locusts are dense enough to be seen and treated from the air. Aerial spraying is only carried out with the permission of landholders. The APLC does not, in accordance with strict national regulations, spray near homesteads, vehicles, stock or dams, beehives or crops being pollinated by bees. The decision to commence or cease APLC control operations is made in line with the primary role of the APLC and a number of logistic and locust biology considerations.