Large swarms of locust were spotted in the areas around Cairo last week, and have now been spotted throughout Israel. Israel just announced that it was on ‘locust alert’ on Monday. One especially large concentration near Israel’s southern Negev desert numbered at least into the millions. The insects, roughly the size of small birds, can destroy agricultural areas and crops very quickly, contributing greatly to regional food problems.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a statement warning that local wind and climate conditions were increasing the likelihood of the insects crossing over into Israel in larger numbers.
Potato farmers in some regions have “complained that their fields were being ruined. Drivers said they could not see through their windshields for all the bugs flying in their direction.”
The insects are themselves edible, and many Israelis apparently enjoy them, but obviously they are present in far too great a quantity for people to deal with them all that way.
According to the Agriculture Ministry this is the first time that Israel has seen noticeable numbers of locusts since 2005. The largest locust plague in Israel, in modern times, occurred in the 1950s.
According to Stav Talal, a researcher from Tel Aviv University, these current swarms originated in “the deserts of Sudan and had moved north in search of food.” But the conditions in Israel currently are not ideal for the locusts, the relatively lower temperatures in Israel making it harder for them to multiply.
“As I understand it,” Mr. Talal said, “they did not come here in droves.”
Locusts have been a considerable problem in Egypt in recent years, “the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture has been combating locust swarms countrywide: in Cairo, Upper Egypt, the Canal area, the Red Sea governorate, El Arish and other border areas in the Sinai Peninsula.
In modern times, and especially in developed countries such as Israel, the method for dealing with locust plagues has been the large-scale spraying of pesticides from the air and on the ground. Which of course brings with it, its own set of problems. “On Wednesday, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement that spraying pesticide from the ground and air had reduced the size of the swarm considerably.”
Insect numbers, especially those of many vectors for human disease, are expected to increase greatly with the rising temperatures expected in the near future. Increased agricultural damage as a result of insect plagues is one of the most likely future effects of climate change.
Image Credit: Locust Plague via Flickr CC