Totemic caterpillar in trouble again


p2403 yellow winged grasshopperBy ERWIN CHLANDA
The story of the endangered Yipirinya caterpillar, the totem of Alice Springs, has taken an ominous turn: Its favourite food, tar vine or Boerhavia, is also the preferred delicacy for the Yellow Wing Grasshoppers (pictured), according to prominent botanist Peter Latz.
Swarms of the pest have landed in at least two Alice Springs rural residential properties.
The good news is they are less voracious than locusts and their breeding is far less prolific (Australian Plague Locusts can appear in numbers that darken the sky).
The grasshoppers may have been “funnelled” here by wind and pressure systems which have brought populations together, says Chris Adriaansen, the head of the Australian Plague Locust Commission in Canberra.
The insects may stay for up to four weeks, or this visit may be part of a longer distance migration and they may be gone in a day or two.
The grasshoppers are eating green plants and reduce the production of seeds, which may affect the growth of the plants. But they are likely to survive, unless the attack is followed by drought.
Mr Adriaansen says the plant growth from recent high rainfalls in The Centre are creating ideal conditions for the insects.
Mr Latz says good seasons are not always good for the desert: The high supply of seeds attracts pests and the prolific plants, when they dry out, are a massive fire risk.


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