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article imageBiblical plague of Locusts hits Madagascar three years in a row

By Karen Graham     Sep 3, 2014 in World
As in the eighth plague described in the Bible's Book of Exodus, locusts are swarming over Madagascar for the third year in a row. Thick, black clouds blot out the sun as they gobble up crops and ravage the countryside until nothing is left.
Madagascar has been fighting its the present red locust plague since 2012. In November of that year, a national emergency was declared, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The FAO then initiated a three-year Locust Control Campaign.
This year, on August 28, an unusually severe heat wave drew the swarm of locusts from out of the countryside into the capital city, Antananarivo. Like the plagues of old, the locusts were everywhere. Regardless of where one went, it was difficult to not step on the insects or drive over them in the streets.
There is not much people in the city can do about the swarm, except hope they go away soon. Some residents have been collecting the locusts to eat, which is not a very good idea. While locusts can be safely eaten if harvested in the fields they are munching on, when they swarm, they eat toxic plants, making then a risky meal for humans,
The $43.9 million Locust Control Campaign started in 2013 will continue through 2016. At the start of the project in September 2013, 2.5 million acres of farmland were sprayed with pesticides. With this particular locust swarm dining on pesticide covered grains, it makes them dangerous to eat.
FAO's Annie Monard is the officer in charge of the locust control project in Madagascar. She told the Voice of America on August 29, “A large-scale control campaign started in September 2013 and the campaign has the duration mainly of the rainy season. A lot of operations were carried out during that time and they are still ongoing. And more than one-point-two million hectares were treated,”
The Madagascar locust problem has required massive cooperation between the U.N., the Madagascar government through a World Bank loan, and international partners such as the European Union, the United States, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. An additional $15 million is being raised to fully implement the program.
The food security of almost 13 million people, 60 percent of Madagascar's population are affected by the locust invasion. Surprisingly, little is known about the red locust, other than it is found in Sub-Saharan Africa. It gets its name from the reddish-brown coloring of the hind-wings.
The red locust likes moist regions, like Madagascar, and actually prefers the cover of trees. When there is plenty of shelters, trees to perch in and plenty of grain, the locusts remain sedentary. It is when dry spells hit that habitat is reduced and populations increase. When numbers get too great, they go into what is called a "gregarious" stage, and their behavior changes. This is when they start swarming, flying as much as 20 to 30 km. a day.
More about Red Locusts, plague of locusts, Madagascar, Toxins, Pesticides
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