FAQ: Locust control - Insecticides

A range of control agents are available in NSW. Choosing the most appropriate control agent is impacted by a number of factors, including where it is to be used (such as within a crop, pasture, stock or sensitive site scenarios), withholding periods and environmental considerations.

Fenitrothion is registered for use against locusts on pasture and a wide range of cereal and other crops. It is available as EC (ground control) and as a ultra-low volume (ULV) formulation for aerial control.

Fipronil, also a ULV formulation for aerial control, is suitable for pasture and sorghum situations. Fipronil is not a 'knockdown' insecticide.

Chlorpyrifos is suitable for EC ground control only in crop or pasture situations.

Metarhizium, sold as Green Guard®, is a biological control agent which can be used in environmentally-sensitive areas and in areas of organic farming or chemical sensitivity. The agent is derived from a naturally-occurring Australian fungus (Metarhizium anisopliae) that attacks locusts. Green Guard® can take 8-18 days to have an effect so should only be used to treat immature locusts, early in their lifecycle. It is not suitable for treating adult locusts. No withholding periods and/or slaughter intervals apply when using Green Guard®.

Any control agents used must be approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). Labels, SDSs (Safety Data Sheet) and permits relating to these pesticides are available at NSW Department of Primary Industries.

Alongside other selection criteria, insecticides with a shorter withholding period are preferred by the NSW Government.

Farmers and public land managers with locusts of sufficient density can obtain insecticide – and in some cases spraying equipment – through their Local Land Services to treat banding locusts.

Landholders applying insecticides are required to have current chemical user certification. All label requirements must be followed, including adhering to buffers, wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the handling and transport requirements. Landholders must also adhere to the SDS, withholding periods and other permits and requirements.

It is critical to control locusts early in their lifecycle – while they are grounded and unable to fly – and before they cause significant damage to crops and pastures. This means treating them at the "banding" stage with insecticide before they take to the wing. This usually occurs 2-3 weeks after peak hatching during the 2nd-4th instar stage. Numbers can be in the hundreds per square metre, allowing target spraying rather broad-acre spraying.

Swarms are highly mobile and almost impossible to treat, with environmental constraints further limiting treatment opportunities.

Ground control is the most effective and efficient method of application.

Insecticides should be applied directly onto the 'banded' nymphs and about one swathe-width ahead of the band, or at least five metres in front, and then work back through the nymph band from the dense leading-edge.

Most types of spray equipment can be used to treat nymph bands. Correctly calibrated boom sprays are the most suitable equipment, or boomless jets which can apply 50-200 litres per hectare can also be used.

Landholders are encouraged to consult with neighbours about spraying, particularly near property boundaries.

Withholding periods must be observed to avoid residue issues. The actual withholding period, which differs depending on the control agent used, is available on the insecticide label. This brochure is also available from your Local Land Services (PDF, 164 KB).

The protection of environmentally sensitive areas and threatened species are critical when controlling locusts.

A number of state and federal agencies including Local Land Services, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Office of Environment and Heritage and APLC work closely together to ensure environmental sustainability issues are being managed. Environmentally sensitive areas may include:

  • rivers and watercourses, including dry watercourses;
  • tanks, troughs and dams;
  • apiary sites and beehives;
  • any area identified by the occupier or neighbouring occupier as a concern;
  • feeding areas of native bird species such as Ibis, which are highly mobile;
  • habitat areas of threatened species such as the Plains wanderer and Bush-stone curlew;
  • biological control sites;
  • aquaculture; and
  • organic farms.

Landholders should assess possible environmentally sensitive sites or risks and discuss any concerns with their Local Land Services.


Bees are particularly sensitive to the insecticides used to control locusts. Effective communication between apiarists and those conducting spraying operations is critical. Where possible, bee hives should be moved away from areas where locust spraying is to be undertaken. For more information see Pesticides - reducing damage to honey bees.

Threatened species

Threatened species such as the Plains wanderer and Bush-stone curlew are protected in a number of ways. Breeding and habitat areas, mapped and identified by the Office of Environment and Heritage, are provided to the APLC, Department of Primary Industries and Local Land Services. These areas are cross-checked by Local Land Services before issuing insecticide to land managers and strict requirements are enforced.

The biological control agent, commercially known as Green Guard, a naturally occurring soil fungus, is the preferred control method for sensitive areas.

When using control agents other than Green Guard, appropriate buffer zones are established to ensure ground or aerial spraying does not impact on habitat areas:

  • 1.5 km aerial spray buffer on the upwind side
  • 300 m ground rig spray buffer on the upwind side

Landholders must also abide by all pesticide label requirements.

Rivers, watercourses, tanks, troughs and dams

Landholders should complete a thorough risk assessment and follow the relevant insecticide labels before spraying near any waterbody including dams, rivers, creeks, tanks, troughs, wetlands and dry watercourses. Specified buffer zones must also be followed.

Safety is the number one priority in any emergency operation. This applies to locust control and strict procedures are in place to protect the safety of the general public, operators, staff and contractors or anyone else involved in locust operations.

In the first instance, liaise with your neighbour about the best control options. If the bands are within 300 metres of an organic farm use Green Guard (Metharhizium). It is recommended that you do not use a conventional insecticide within 300 metres upwind of an organic property boundary. This will reduce any likelihood of drift or the movement of treated hoppers from your property into the neighbours.

Yes. Only trained chemical users are able to apply a pesticide to treat locusts. A current Australian Qualifications Framework 3 (AQF3) Statement of Attainment is required from a registered training organisation to apply chemicals. Chemical user training courses are offered through SMARTtrain (developed by NSW Department of Primary Industries and TAFE NSW) – as well as other providers – and remains valid for five years. For more information see PROfarm training and accreditation courses for locust spraying.

A range of techniques can be used to minimise spray drift, including:

  • not spraying or delaying spraying until conditions improve;
  • substituting with a less toxic insecticide such as Green Guard;
  • substituting with less drift prone application equipment, e.g. small boom spray instead of mister;
  • using low drift nozzles;
  • reducing speed (forward speed, plus fan speed for misters);
  • reducing application height;
  • increasing water volumes;
  • following label mandated buffer or no spray zones; and
  • adopting site specific buffer zones based on an on-site risk assessment that considers the surrounding environment, weather, application equipment, chemical and formulation type.

All insecticide applications must be recorded, including those insecticides applied for locust control. These records are to be kept for at least three years and are auditable by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Speak to your Local Land Services or visit NSW DPI locust management for further information resources, including fact sheets, technical guides and industry-specific information.