Two special purpose insect-detecting radar units have operated in inland eastern Australia, in the region where nocturnal migratory movements of Australian plague locusts Chortoicetes terminifera occur, for over 10 years. The fully automatic radars detect individual insects as they fly directly overhead and “interrogate” them to obtain information about their characters (size, shape, and wing beating) and trajectory (speed, direction, and orientation). The character data allow locusts to be distinguished from most other migrant species. A locust index, calculated from the total count of locust-like targets for a night, provides a simple indication of migration intensity. For nights of heavy migration, the variation of numbers, directions, and speeds with both height and time can be examined. Emigration and immigration events can be distinguished, as can “transmigration,” the passage overhead of populations originating elsewhere. Movement distances can be inferred, and broad source and (more tentatively) destination regions are identified. Movements were typically over distances of up to 400 km. Interpretation of radar observations requires judgment, and the present two units provide only partial coverage of the locust infestation area, but their capacity to detect major population movements promptly, and to provide information between necessarily infrequent surveys, has proved valuable.
Drake, V. A., & Wang, H. (2013). Recognition and characterization of migratory movements of Australian plague locusts, Chortoicetes terminifera, with an insect monitoring radar. Journal of Applied Remote Sensing, 7(075095), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1117/1.JRS.7.075095