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Locust Swarm Moves to Egypt

November 18, 2004

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A swarm of locusts that has been eating everything in sight in western Africa has been blown across the Sahara Desert area of northern Africa and is now threatening Egypt.

The locusts, which had been plaguing crops growing in Morocco and Algeria in the northwest part of the continent and then Mauritania and Niger further east, have settled in the northern part of Egypt, worrying agriculture officials and residents. The swarm numbered in the millions and could approach a billion soon. They landed on treetops and roofs in droves in the early part of the day on Wednesday, Nov. 17, but took flight again later that day. Reports from Cairo in the evening reported no swarms. Reports from nearby Alexandria issued similar information.

It is the first time in 50 years that locusts have descended on the Egyptian capital. Officials called for intense spraying of pesticides in an effort to keep the locusts from eating up Egypt's crops the way they did those of western Africa.

Agriculture experts are saying that the locusts are headed to the Red Sea, which borders Egypt to the east, in search of breeding grounds that they regularly visit. Others aren't so sure. Many farmers who had no access to pesticides tried to keep the insects away the old-fashioned way—with smoke and mirrors. Actually, they set smoky fires and ran their machinery for hours on end, hoping that the loud noises would keep the locusts from landing on their farms.

Whether the locusts return to the larger population areas remains to be seen. For now, a combination of spraying and fortuitous rain has kept the infestations away.

Countries Plagued by Locusts Recently

Click on the map to see a larger version of it.

Graphics courtesy of ClipArt.com

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