Fact Sheet: Home and community gardens
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.
Warm, moist weather conditions are the most favourable for locust egg hatchings. Locusts are hard to spot when they first emerge as young immature locusts (called hoppers). They are only about 3mm long and pale in colour. Newly hatched locusts can cause considerable damage and can consume half their body weight in food per day. Hoppers, which are wingless and unable to fly, may form and move as a 'band' or group, with up to thousands of hoppers for every square metre of the band. Spraying with insecticides at this stage is very effective and can greatly reduce numbers.
Chemical treatment of locust hoppers is needed to minimise damage to drops and prevent further egg laying.
The following information will help home and community gardeners prepare and respond to locusts if they are present in Victoria.
Are insecticides safe?
All insecticides legally sold in Victoria are registered by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and have passed rigorous testing to ensure they are safe and fit for their intended use.
Which insecticides are used to treat locusts?
Home and community gardeners are encouraged only to use products that are registered for domestic use. These products are usually available in small pack sizes or as ready-to-use formulations. Speak to your local chemical or home garden retailer about suitable products for your situation.
How do I apply insecticides to my garden?
- Read and follow all the label directions. Ensure that you understand how to use it correctly and the risks that must be managed.
- Take precautionary measures. Keep children and pets away, close doors and windows and remove toys, pet food and water before spraying.
- Avoid spraying if it's very windy.
- Use recommended Personal Protective Equipment (e.g. gloves, safety goggles, trousers and long-sleeved shirts. See the product label for specific instructions).
- If the product needs to be mixed with water before application, measure the required quantities and the output to ensure you are using the right amount of chemical (this is called calibration). Consult our information note Using Knapsack Sprayers and Compression Sprayers.
- Only spray the locusts and area you want to treat. Avoid water bodies (e.g. ornamental ponds, pet water) or plants in flower if you see bees around, as insecticides are highly toxic to bees.
- Observe any re-entry periods stated on the label (are-entry period is how long you should avoid entering the area after you have sprayed). Do not re-enter the treated area until the chemical has dried. If treating lawns then it is recommended not to re-enter the treated area until 12 hours after application unless wearing the appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment as described on the product label.
- If spraying fruit, vegetables or nuts, observe any withholding periods and 'DO NOT' statements on the label. Withholding periods are designed to ensure that enough time has passed between spraying and harvest to ensure any residues left are below acceptable levels.
- Stop using the product immediately if you begin to have any reaction (e.g. breathing problems, nausea, eye or nose irritation etc) and seek medical advice. If poisoning occurs ring the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 and read the product for further specific instructions.
- Once you have finished spraying, follow all label instructions on storage, cleaning and disposal.
- Always wash exposed skin, clothing and any equipment after use.
Can I pick fruit and vegetables I have sprayed?
If you have sprayed your vegetable garden or fruit trees, you need to strictly observe withholding periods or 'DO NOT' statements on the product label. This will ensure that chemical residues have broken down to a safe and acceptable level.
What about my pets?
- Appropriately restrain animals whilst spraying is taking place.
- DO NOT spray near fish ponds or allow the chemical to drift onto the ponds. Chemicals used to treat locusts can be toxic to fish and crustaceans and in some cases bees.
- DO NOT graze treated areas (e.g. lawn or use grass clippings from treated area as stock feed)
- Restrict any access by pets to the treated area until the spray has dried.
Information on the locust situation and locust biology and management can be found at www.agriculture.vic.gov.au/locusts
Report locust hatchings or contact our Locust Hotline on 1300 135 559.