With Passover only a few weeks away, the eighth of the 10 Plagues descended upon
Israel on Tuesday after already overtaking much of Egypt.
mid-afternoon, the Agriculture Ministry reported that a large swarm containing
millions of locusts had crossed the border from Sinai and into Kadesh Barnea.
Ministry workers immediately embarked on an observational aircraft mission to
map the location of the band of bugs, after which they sprayed the entire area
from the air, the office said.
By evening, the ministry reported that the
swarm had landed near where the bugs had entered the country, and that they were
not expected to rise back into the air before Wednesday morning. At the first
signs of light on Wednesday, the workers will be distributing both aerial and
ground pesticide sprays in the area, the ministry said, noting that the office
would continue to monitor the situation in Egypt.
A report from the UN
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), which is maintaining a close watch on
the situation, said there was a risk that a few more locusts from Sinai would
continue on to the Negev through the end of Tuesday, with a chance of reaching
adjacent Arava Valley areas in Jordan.
By Wednesday and onward, however,
the FAO said the possibility of additional swarms hitting Israel and Jordan
would decline greatly, as winds would likely shift.
The tens of millions
of locusts – possibly even more – that swept into Egypt over the weekend
prompted the Agriculture Ministry to issue a “locust alert” on
Egyptian media outlets described the bugs as attacking the
El-Obour Market in Cairo on Sunday and discussed frightened Suez farmers who had
been greeted by the insects. One local source on the ground told The Jerusalem
Post on Monday that experts were estimating anywhere between 30 million and 120
million locusts swarming around Egypt.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian
Agriculture Ministry had warned against the practice of burning tires to ward
off the bugs, due to fear of spreading wildfires, the source said.
swarms of locusts had not yet entered Shuk Hacarmel in Tel Aviv as they had the
Cairo market, a few stray locusts did manage to make their way to various points
across the country as of Tuesday evening.
One Ramat Gan resident, Ofir
Auslander, told the Post that he and his wife, Roni Mokhir Auslander, had
discovered a locust on Monday night on their apartment terrace.
discovered it after I stepped on it, when I went to move my tulip plants from
the living room window into the kitchen,” he said. “[I was] following an ‘inner
voice’ that told me to protect them in case the locusts arrived at Ramat Gan at
night when I was sleeping or when I was at work the next day. I did not want to
abandon the tulips.”
Auslander and his wife had already sprayed
insecticide that morning inside the apartment, so the locust had not ended up
flying all over their home. Because he was wearing his Crocs when he went
outside to get the tulips, he said, he had not felt the locust under his foot,
and while the stomping was serious, the locust remained whole – albeit
Prof. Amir Ayali, an expert on locusts at Tel Aviv University’s
Zoology Department, said he had heard reports of people seeing single or small
groups of locusts as far north as the Carmel region. While Ayali had originally
thought, based on weather and wind forecasts, that the locusts would not enter
the country and would head eastward to Saudi Arabia instead, he acknowledged
that these forecasts had been wrong.
“Even though this swarm did enter
Israel, it is still a mini-swarm in a way,” he told the Post. “We need to wait
and see what happens.”
Ayali predicted that the locusts would mostly die
after being “sprayed like crazy” on Wednesday morning, and those that did not
die would fly away. For his part, he is sending his students – and he may join
them – on a locust observation expedition at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, he
Meanwhile, the Ramat Hanegev Regional Council reported residents
encountering thousands of the bugs throughout the day on Tuesday, from Nitzana
to Sde Boker, and sealing their homes against the creatures.
Thus far, no
serious crop damage has occurred within the regional council.
locust saga continues, the Agriculture Ministry urged the public to report any
locust swarm sightings to the ministry immediately, and be particularly on the
lookout for bugs in the western Negev.