Serotonin Interference

— A Holistic approach to counter Locusts Attack

Annapurna Vinod
3 min readMay 15, 2021

Locust attacks have been a cause of concern for a long time, resulting in the vast destruction of crops globally. Swarms of deserts are threatening large areas of pastures and crops, overwhelming countries in the Horns of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia.

Locust swarm in Jaipur 2020. source: NY Times

If left unchecked locust could grow by 400 times in their breeding season as each generation has a 20-fold increase in population on average. The locust threatens food security and the ability to access pasture for livestock.
The current prevailing method is spraying insecticide or pesticides (particularly Fenitrothion) sprayed from land or aerial vehicles. The main demerits of these methods are:
• These methods can affect the soil chemical composition and PH.
They destroy the soil microbes and insects that can favour crop growth.
• They affect cattle, animals and birds if they eat dead insects or leaves of sprayed plants.

For the Desert Locust, favourable conditions for breeding are hot and humid conditions favouring
(1) moist sandy or sand/clay soil to depths of 10–15 cm below the surface,
(2) some bare areas for egg-laying,
(3) green vegetation for hopper development.

The proposed method of Serotonin Interference aims to be a holistic yet effective pest control method. Serotonin contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness, modulating cognition, reward, memory, and numerous physiological processes. In solitary insects, they specifically help in mutual attraction and contributes to a normal breeding phase. In humans, Serotonin syndrome occurs as a result of using an excessive number of anti-depressants. This condition is reversed using certain medications that reduce the serotonin content in the body. The compounds in such medications that reduce serotonin production can thus be used in desert locusts as well. The compounds used in anti-serotonin syndrome medications, that targets in controlling the production of serotonin are

  1. Benzodiazepine
  2. 2. Cyproheptadine.

Apart from these, caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, NutraSweet, antidepressants, and some cholesterol-lowering medications deplete serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels

For a long time, drones have been used for insect and pest breeding surveillance. UAV specifically designed to detect insect breeding with remote sensing and GPS to track their flight pattern do exist. Regions of extreme locust infestation could be identified via these drones. Serotonin inhibitors of proper dosage could be sprayed on their breeding grounds to keep these pests at bay.
This method of locusts control has many advantages. We control the population without completely eradicating them. Crops are not affected and least side effects of the atmosphere and soil. It is also a pretty cost-effective way to control locusts in the long run by cutting down the extensive multiplication.
The proposed solution aims to control serotonin production, which is excessively created under external conditions in locusts. We aim to bring back serotonin concentration to normal and not reducing it above an extend. This hence is a holistic approach to securing the species group as well.