From DailyMail.co.uk | On Monday, March 4th, 2013
As swarms of locust devour Egyptian crops, the Middle East is bracing for the destructive bugs to migrate their way ahead of the Passover holiday.
A swarm of an estimated 30million insects has been devastating crops in Egypt, fueling apocalyptic fears because of the infestation’s proximity to the Bible story of Passover in which a swarm of locusts, the eighth of ten plagues, is imposed on Egyptians by God for enslaving and abusing ancient Hebrews.
Israel’s Agriculture Ministry set up an emergency hotline today and urged residents to be vigilant in reporting sightings of the insects to prevent an outbreak.
A special task force has also been set up to help farmers manage infestations.
The locusts pass through the country as part of their normal migration from north east Sudan to Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian Agriculture Ministry said, emphasising that Egypt was just ‘a transfer station’ for the locusts, which were in larger numbers this year.
As the insects descended on agricultural farms in Giza and in Cairo, causing significant damage, fears have been raised that they could spread to Israel.
In a statement from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the infestation was described as a ‘immature swarm’ which ‘appeared in the afternoon (on March 2) in the eastern Cairo districts of New Cairo and Mokattam and dispersed into several smaller swarmlets’.
The statement read: ‘The locusts originated from breeding that has been in progress since November in southeast Egypt between Berenice and the Sudanese border.
‘As vegetation dried out, small groups and swarms of immature adults moved slowly north along the Red Sea coast, reaching Marsa Alam on 8 February, Hurghada on the 16th and Zafarana on the 26th.’
As well as Israel, Lebanon and Jordan have been alerted.
In Cairo, people were burning tyres to create black smoke to deter the locust from settling and there were reports that swarms had been seen in Zafarana, about 124 miles from Cairo, on the Red Sea and in the city of Qena, where the insects have been sighted in at least three villages.
According to the Israel National News, the Egyptian Agriculture Minister Dr Salah Abd Al Mamon said: ‘Egyptian armed forces and border guards are attempting to fight the swarm with all means at their disposal.
‘I ask the families living in the locust-plagues areas not to burn tyres. This does not chase away the locusts, but only causes damage and could ignite largescale fires that would cost in lives.’
He said that strong winds were predicted in weather forecasts and he hoped that this would force the insects to migrate toward the Red Sea and Saudi Arabia. Crop duster planes were also going to be used to handle the infestation.
Egypt and Israel was infested with locust in 2004. Israeli agriculture officials sent crop dusters into the air to spray against the locusts that swept in from North Africa in the first such invasion since 1959.
The Egyptian Agriculture Ministry said that the locusts pass through the country as part of their normal migration from north east Sudan to Saudi Arabia, reaffirming that Egypt is just ‘a transfer station’ for the locusts
Farmers in 15 out of the 27 Egyptian governorates suffered significant agricultural damage as the insects devoured crops and flowers.
This year Passover will begin on the evening of March 25 and end on the evening of April 2.
The infestation comes as a study warns that yellow-legged Asian hornets that prey on bees are among the latest non-native species threatening UK wildlife, and even people’s health.
A growing number of alien species, from killer shrimps to Spanish slugs, are set to soon reach our shores, a Europe-wide study warns.
The Asian hornet, which grows to between 2.5cm and 3cm (1-1.2 inches), preys on native honeybees, wasps and other pollinators, potentially devastating hives and threatening honey and crop production.