20 June 2014

Liberia: Caterpillar Invasion Hits Three Counties

Photo: Darius Baužys/Flickr
Some residents say they are fleeing to escape the trail of excrement that the caterpillars leave behind.

Despite failed efforts to curb the Achaea species of caterpillar by government over the years, there have been reported outbreaks of the caterpillar in three counties including Bong, Lofa and Gbarpolu.

The caterpillar which is the worst swarm of insect, known as army worm, appeared in Bong County in January 2009, and devoured crops and plagued some 20 villages. The Government of Liberia declared a state of emergency at the time to address the situation.

The ex-minister of Agriculture Dr. Chris Toe in 2009 termed the outbreak of the caterpillar as destructive and dangerous to the extent that each female lays between 500 and 1,000 eggs in a given period.

In a communication addressed to the Liberian Senate, Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe-Sheriff admits fear that the species could spread over to other counties if nothing is done urgently to have it addressed.

She explained that the presence of the species in the three counties was worrisome.

She stressed the need for urgency to be attached to her communication due to its importance.

The Montserrado Senator also requested the ministries of Health and Agriculture to provide detailed report of mechanism put in place to address the situation.

Also speaking, Senators Peter S. Coleman, Oscar A. Cooper and Alphonso Gaye suggested that the Health and Agriculture Ministers appear before the Senate Committees on Agriculture and Health for questioning.

The caterpillar, which can grow up to 5cm (2in) in length, is one of the world's most destructive agricultural pests.

During that time, over US$4 million was said to have been spent by the Liberian Government to curb the spread of the species.

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