Locusts Invade Israel's Negev, After Plaguing Egypt

Insects spread through Negev; Agriculture Ministry says pesticides should prevent locusts from spreading anywhere else in Israel.

Several thousand locusts invaded Israel from Egypt on Monday spreading through the area of the Ramat Negev Regional Council just three weeks before Passover, including the Nitzana border crossing with Sinai.

The Agriculture Ministry said that steps would be taken to exterminate the insects overnight, before they could spread to other districts.

Relatively small swarms of locusts began descended on northern Egypt in recent days and were carried into Israel by Westerly winds. The Agriculture Ministry set up a hotline a few days ago where people could report locust sightings.

“All the relevant parties in the areas that locusts can be expected to enter have been briefed and are on alert,” said Miriam Freund, director of the ministry’s Plant Protection and Inspection Services. “Israel has an aerial and land-based spraying system that is ready for action if and when it is needed. We are in regular contact with the United Nations World Food Programme, which is giving us reports on the advance of the locust swarms.”

As part of its preparations, the ministry asked companies that make or import pesticides to increase their inventories.

The last time locusts invaded Israel was in January 2005.  The ministry attributed their eight-year absence to its staff’s efforts to exterminate them.

Locusts are considered one of the greatest threats to agricultural produce. They eat a wide variety of vegetation, including leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds and bark, and each locust consumes its own weight in vegetation every day. A locust swarm can contain tens of millions of bugs in the space of a square kilometer, and swarms have been known to cover an area of almost 1,000 square kilometers. A single ton of the insects – which constitutes only a small portion of a swarm – consumes as much food as 2,500 human beings.