Fact Sheet: Health and Safety
Australian Plague Locusts naturally inhabit the far north west of New South Wales and adjacent areas of Queensland and South Australia, an area known as the channel country.
They are pests of pastures, field crops, and vegetables in New South Wales and southern Queensland and infrequently in South Australia and Victoria.
Although they are not native to Victoria, locusts may be seen in varying concentrations from season to season around regional Victoria.
In any given year, it is possible that locust swarms could migrate into Victoria from interstate and land managers should be aware of the potential threat they pose.
Insecticide treatment of locust hoppers is needed to minimise damage to drops and prevent further egg laying.
What insecticides can be used to treat locusts?
A number of insecticide products are available for the treatment of Australian Plague Locusts. These products fall into four broad groups:
- Biological insecticides
- Organophosphate and carbamate insecticides containing fenitrothion, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, maldison (malathion) or carbaryl
- Phenylpyrazole insecticides containing fipronil
- Synthetic pyrethroid insecticides containing cypermethrin, alpha-cypermethrin, beta-cyfluthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin and gamma-cyhalothrin.
Each of these insecticide groups has different characteristics, and choosing the right one to use should involve careful consideration of the specific circumstances. The DEDJTR website contains information about the use of insecticides to treat locusts (www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/locusts).
These chemicals may not be appropriate for use in and around the home. Only use products that are labelled for domestic use in or around the home. Domestic products are usually available in small pack sizes or as pre-mixed, ready-to-use products. Always check the label and consult with agronomists or chemical resellers if unsure.
Protect yourself while applying insecticides on farm.
Use the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as specified on the product label. These may include chemical resistant boots and long sleeve gloves, eye and face protection, long sleeve cotton overalls and hat. If a respirator is required check that you have one that is correctly fitted. Ensure that you have adequate supplies of PPE for all persons applying insecticides. (Note: reusable PPE must be properly cleaned between shifts)
What safety measures are in place to ensure communities will not be exposed to locust insecticides?
Every effort will be made to ensure that communities are not exposed to the insecticides when locust spraying in undertaken in Victoria. Locust campaigns have been regularly and safely conducted in the past.
For aerial or mister spraying there are notification and buffer requirements for schools, hospitals, aged care centres and children's services. There are also significant buffers that apply around dwellings, and in built up environments.
Those applying the insecticides have been trained to protect the safety of the public and of themselves. More than 80,000 people in Victoria have completed an accredited course in safe chemical use, and DEDJTR officers will be specifically tasked to audit chemical use during the event. DEDJTR field staff have undertaken this training course and have recently received specific training in relation to locust response.
Risks to human health are taken into account by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and product labels contain safety directions to ensure human health is protected.
In the event of any large un-contained insecticide spill call 000. The EPA should be contacted if any insecticides are spilled into drains or waterways, call 1800 444 044.
What do I do if I believe spray drift has impacted my home?
If you have been directly exposed to agricultural chemicals and you are concerned about possible health effects, consult your doctor for assessment and treatment.
If you rely on rain water for drinking and suspect that your roof catchment has been contaminated by spray drift, immediately disconnect the rain water tank from the roof to avoid contamination. Arrange to have the roof and gutters cleaned before reconnecting the tank. Be careful to prevent injuring yourself.
If you suspect contamination of your rain water tank, do not use the water for drinking, preparing food or making ice. Only resume drinking the tank water after the tank has been cleaned and refilled with clean water. Alternatively you may choose to pay to have your water tested for contamination by a National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA) accredited laboratory.
For additional information consult your local council Environmental Health Officer.
To report a spray drift incident call the DEDJTR Locust Hotline on 1300 135 559 and ask to speak to Chemical Standards Officer or contact your local council Environmental Health Officer.
How do these insecticides work on killing locusts?
Biological insecticides cause a fatal parasitic fungal disease within the locust's body. The length of time these products take to kill locusts varies according to the weather. If it is cool, it can take up to 20 days, but the fungal disease will act faster in warmer weather.
Organophosphate, carbamate, phenylpyrazole, and synthetic pyrethriod insecticides kill locusts by disrupting the normal function of the locust's nervous system and are relatively quick to act.
Do they leave any residue?
Chemical product labels contain directions for use that have been assessed by the APVMA. If the chemical is used according to these directions, any residues will be below the Maximum Residue Limit and sprayed produce will be safe for human consumption.
What impact do they have on pregnant women and children?
Pregnant women and children are recognised as groups that are particularly susceptible to pesticides. To minimise exposure, pregnant women and children should:
- Avoid personally using pesticides
- Not enter areas where a pesticide is being applied
Risks to human health, including pregnant women and children, are taken into account by the APVMA and product labels contain safety directions to minimise risks to human health.
The locust chemical treatment options are a similar hazard level to chemicals available for use in home garden situations (i.e. rose dust, lawn grub insecticides) or in the household (i.e. bleach, oven cleaner, etc).
If you have any health concerns consult your doctor for assessment and treatment.
Should I attempt to apply insecticide in my own garden?
There are chemical and non-chemical treatment options are available to home owners wanting to protect their garden from locust damage.
Non-chemical treatment options include using insect mesh or shade cloth that is not green-coloured to protect valuable plants and shrubs (locusts are attracted to green areas) or catching and squashing them.
Insecticides registered for use on locusts in home gardens differ from those used for agricultural and industrial uses because they are formulated in low concentrations and often sold as ready-to-use products. Before purchasing a product, read the label and seek advice from your local retailer on which one is best for your situation.
If you use chemicals in your home garden to treat locusts, ensure you read and follow the product label as it may contain statements that will help you minimise the risk of off-target movement of the chemical.
What effect do these insecticides have on food products?
Insecticides play an important role in agriculture, assisting farmers to deliver fresh, high quality produce to customers. There are laws that regulate their use in Victoria.
In general, agricultural chemicals are used safely and responsibly by trained producers, who follow label requirements and ensure that sufficient time has passed to allow chemical residues in crops to break down to a safe and acceptable level.
If you have sprayed your home vegetable garden or fruit trees when treating locusts, you need to follow any withholding periods (WHPs) or 'DO NOT' statements on the product label. This will ensure that enough time has passed between spraying and harvesting your produce for consumption, and that risks to the environment are managed.
Where should I go for more information and advice?
Information on the locust situation and locust biology and management can be found on the DEDJTR website at www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/locusts
Please report locust sightings and hatchings to the DEDJTR Locust Hotline: 1300 135 559
If you have any concerns, contact:
- The Poisons information Centre: 13 11 26
- DEDJTR Customer Service Centre: 136 186
- Your local chemical retailer
The information in this factsheet is a joint undertaking between DEDJTR and the Victorian Department of Health.