Shortly after arriving in Madagascar a few years ago, we watched the BBC’s Planet Earth II episode in which a film crew found it amazingly difficult to track down a swarm containing more than a billion of the tiny, destructive creatures. Apparently, it can be surprisingly difficult to find and film them. We had also seen footage, prior to coming here, of the swarms that occurred when locust populations exploded in 2013. But, thankfully – given the impact they can have on already-meager crop yields in parts of the country – we had not seen any since our arrival; it seems international organizations are working with the authorities to keep them in check.
But we were returning from Madagascar’s Isalo National Park, some four hours by road from Toliara, on the island country’s southeast coast, when we spotted several large swarms along the Route Nationale 7. They were nowhere near as large as those filmed on Planet Earth II, but they nonetheless made an expression. We pulled over to the side of the road, and I quickly launched my drone to get (and film) a closer look.
Needless to say, a number of the insects were caught by the drone’s propeller blades and I had a cleanup job later. I also had trouble with the drone’s obstacle avoidance system – it kept braking because locusts were flying in front of its sensors – but I was happy to get a decent amount of footage from inside the swarm itself.