Since the past several weeks, parts of the African nation of Liberia continue to experience an invasion of caterpillars affecting crops and vegetation as well as water sources.

The Salayea and Zorzor Districts of Lofa County, located in the northernmost area of the country, have seen the brunt of the invasion. Specifically, the Lamai and Suenamai Villages and Ganglota Town, as well as surrounding towns and villages, are the primary targets of the insect invasion.

Likewise, the Jorquelleh District, located in the central part of the country, has seen its villagers attacked by jumbo caterpillars. These caterpillars, covered in long hair and nearing the length of a finger, have attacked plantations as well as homes.

It is possible the caterpillars have also been discovered in the Kolahun District of the country, according to unconfirmed reports.

The Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-information Services, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency Lofa and the Ministry of Agriculture have developed a collaboration as a means to stop the invasion from continuing to spread.

Inhabitants of the most affected towns have been told to cut down cotton trees and avoid using affected water sources, including rivers and creeks.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Technical Services, Dr. Sizi B. Subah, noted that the invasion of caterpillars is most likely related to climate change.

The invasion of destructive worms is the first since 2009, when the government declared a national agricultural emergency. The 2009 invasion was considered the worst in three decades after affecting scores of towns in the country — a country that was still recovering from a civil war — swarming through forests, cocoa and coffee fields throughout the country.

Scientists and government officials have noted the importance of targeting the pests at the right time. Waiting too long to attack the caterpillars may result in sustainable damage to food and water sources.

— Ethan Safran

Sources: allAfrica, Star Africa, NBC News, NY Times
Photo: The Guardian