Israel battling new swarm of locusts


Israel battled a new swarm of locusts that crossed the border from Egypt.

Crop dusting planes on Monday dropped pesticides on the locusts, which are yellow and preparing to lay eggs. The yellow locusts eat much less than the swarms that have been entering Israel over the last three weeks, but the hatched eggs would pose a significant risk to Israeli crops since locust larvae will eat any green plant.

A swarm of about 30 million locusts first appeared near Cairo on March 2 and caused millions of dollars worth of crop damage in Egypt.

The locust attacks come at the start of Passover, which recalls a destructive plague of locusts that the Bible says was sent by God to help free the Jewish slaves.

Locust swarm plagues Israel just in time for Passover


A swarm of 1 million locusts crossed into Israel from Egypt.

The locusts on Tuesday remained concentrated in areas of southern Israel near the border, but sightings were reported throughout the country, including Tel Aviv and the Carmel region of northern Israel.

Residents of the Ramat HaNegev Regional Council, where the first locusts were seen on Monday, have sealed their homes against the thousands of locusts in their area, according to reports.

Aerial and ground pesticides are expected to be sprayed late Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. No more swarms are expected to cross the border due to a shift in the wind direction.

A black cloud of more than 30 million locusts — some estimates ranged as high as 120 million — swarmed over parts of Egypt beginning on Saturday, causing millions of dollars worth of damage, according to Egyptian Agricultural Minister Salah Abad Almoman.

The locust attack comes some three weeks before the start of Passover, which recalls a destructive plague of locusts that the Bible says was sent by God to free the Jewish slaves.

Locust swarm crosses from Egypt into Israel


A swarm of locusts that descended on Egypt has begun to cross into southern Israel.

A small swarm of the destructive cousin to the grasshopper was discovered Monday in the Ramat Hanegev region near the border with Egypt. They are expected to be exterminated Monday night or early Tuesday morning, Ynet reported.

A black cloud of more than 30 million locusts swarmed over parts of Egypt including Cairo and Giza beginning on Saturday, causing millions of dollars worth of damage, according to Egyptian Agricultural Minister Salah Abad Almoman.

A hotline was set up in Israel for farmers to call if they see signs of locust infestation.

The locust attack comes some three weeks before the start of Passover, which recalls a destructive plague of locusts, one of the 10 plagues that the Bible says was sent by God in order to free the Jewish slaves.

Unwelcome Visitors Plaguing Israel


 

In strong language a week ago, the United States renewed its security warning against travel to Israel. Nevertheless, millions of visitors are certain to ignore it — including both the most welcome tourists and the least desirable arrivals of all.

Five hundred million visitors return to Israel in good years and bad, either wintering here or dropping in en route to other destinations. I was part of a group of Israelis who gathered last week to welcome them in the marshy rain-soaked countryside. In order to greet them up close, we were cautioned not to talk loudly nor make sharp movements. Wrapped in ponchos and wearing old sneakers, we all carried one indispensable apparatus — binoculars.

We were rewarded with the sight of multitudes of flamingos and kingfishers, warblers and spoonbills, mallards and herons, gulls and cormorants. Flocks of majestic pelicans rose to circle and fly in perfect formation in search of further meals and further vistas. We saw egrets nobly nodding, ducks gliding upon ponds, stilts treading nimbly upon muddy flats and storks perching upon one leg or two. I was surrounded in that short morning with the symmetry and grace of more birds than I had ever seen trekking elsewhere.

Israel is the beneficiary of this gorgeous spectacle because it fortuitously lies on the aviary migration routes from Europe to Africa, offering among the best bird sighting opportunities in the world.

But other, much-less welcome airborne visitors are descending these days upon this part of the world. Duplicating the biblical plague upon Egypt, millions of locusts are zooming in upon the towns and fields of Israel. These winged grasshopper-like creatures, colored a garish pink and measuring up to three inches long, blanket their destination in dense swarms.

The locusts originate in West Africa, to which they are endemic. Inadequate control measures have ballooned their numbers to epidemic proportions, creating the world’s worst locust outbreak in 15 years. They are now invading as far west as the Canary Islands and to the east in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel. Two people who witnessed the last locust attacks in Israel almost half a century ago during the 1950s vividly described to me their repulsion at being caught in a living cloud of insects. One had his car enveloped in a swarm; the other recalled her body covered with crawling creatures, the feeling of them moving through hair and over cheeks, and the sound of them crunching underfoot. It was a loathsome sensation whose memory never faded.

The swarms upon Israel are at their inception; at present the country is escaping maximum damage to greenery and crops. Although locusts are notoriously ravenous and can daily consume more than their own weight, the appetites of these young locusts are immature and they have not reached the egg-laying stage. Swarms have thus far landed in the south of the country where most of the agriculture is in covered hothouses and hence inaccessible. The trick will be to eradicate the pests before they breed and before they reach farther north where crops grow in the open air.

During the promise of Mideast peace prior to the intifada, Israeli ornithologists established contact with their Jordanian and Palestinian counterparts to foster bird tracking and research. Although the birds continue to arrive heedless of political strife, the cooperation of the scientists has per force been greatly reduced. For example, gatherings among Israeli, Arab and Palestinian children to learn about the birds that crisscross their common skies have been suspended.

However, the prospect of a locust disaster has begun to galvanize Israelis and Arabs to join hands in at least some way. Israel has been sending plane after plane into the sky to spray against locusts. With the full cooperation and approval of the Jordanian Ministry of Agriculture in Amman, Israeli planes sprayed along a region of the Negev on both sides of the border between Israel and Jordan, thus protecting both countries. Israel is awaiting response from Egypt on its offer to spray the locust breeding grounds in the Egyptian Sinai Desert.

The Mideast contains extremes of beauty and ugliness, of blessings and curses, of hope and despair. Bringing exquisite birds and loathsome pests, the heavens, too, bear this out.

The threatening cloud from the sky might succeed in uniting human beings on the ground. Perhaps they will perceive their common interest to be continued cooperation even after the marauding insect invaders have been banished.