Agriculture Ministry sprays locusts in South

Ministry sprays aerial pesticides, decreasing activity of millions of bugs that infiltrated Israeli south.

Agriculture Ministry spraying locusts 370 (photo credit: Agriculture Ministry/Moshe Weiss)
Agriculture Ministry spraying locusts 370
(photo credit: Agriculture Ministry/Moshe Weiss)
Agriculture Ministry teams feverishly sprayed the South’s fields by air and on the ground on Wednesday, in attempts to ward off a swarm of locusts that had infiltrated Israel on Tuesday.
After millions of locusts crossed the border from Sinai on Tuesday, ministry teams launched an extensive aerial and ground spray operation on Tuesday evening, which they followed with another aerial spraying session that went on from about 6 through 11:30 a.m., the Agriculture Ministry said. Immediately after that spraying episode, the ministry said that workers saw no bugs rising in flight.
All in all, the sprayers covered about 750 hectares (over 1,850 acres) of land east of Kmehin with aerial pesticides, followed by ground treatment throughout the day, the ministry explained.
By the time evening fell, the Agriculture Ministry reported that the activities of the locust swarms had decreased significantly, though teams were still spraying the grounds as well as monitoring the situation in Egypt. While almost no significant agricultural damage had occurred at this point, the ministry stressed that even if such harm had befallen the crops, risk insurance covers agricultural fields. The ministry itself participates in 80 percent of the premiums that farmers receive, as food supply is an issue of national importance, the office said.
Despite the successful handling of the locusts that have swarmed in thus far, the ministry has opened a situation room in the area of Ramat Hanegev where the locusts have flocked, and researchers at the office’s Agricultural Research Organization in Beit Dagan are continuously exploring more advanced mechanisms for coping with the bugs.
Throughout the spraying process, pesticide manufacturer and marketer Makhteshim Agan has been working with the Agriculture Ministry to eradicate the insects as well as maintain an emergency stock of combatants against them, the company said.
“Field workers at Makhteshim in the South have been in the region and are following in real time the development of the issue, and are ensuring that additional stock will be ready to continue to fight the pest that can cause immense economic damage to agriculture in the South,” said Shlomi Nahim, local marketing director for Makhteshim.
The desert locust, or Schistocerca gregaria, weighs about 2 to 4 grams and is capable of eating about half of its body weight within a few hours, the company explained. Therefore, if not properly managed, an average swarm could swallow several tons of food, reducing fields by 50-75%, within the span of 24 hours, the company added.