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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 March, 2004, 13:32 GMT
Locusts swarm across Australia
Karen Spellman sweeps up locusts in the central New South Wales town of Dubbo
Locusts have moved into towns in New South Wales
A plague of locusts that has devastated crops in the Australian outback has begun migrating south.

Heavy rains that ended a long drought in north-eastern Australia has provided ideal breeding conditions for the bugs.

Officials said the swarms that appeared in remote parts of Queensland had moved to more built-up New South Wales.

"We were just staggering out of the drought, we are incredibly frustrated," said farmer Bev Dennis, based 550 km (340 miles) west of Sydney.

"A thick haze of them came through over the weekend and chomped their way through our oats crop overnight," she added.

She said the oats had been intended for her lambs, which had had very little grass to eat over the last two years due to lowest rainfall levels in a century.

"I just kept on thinking it's got to get better, but now we've got this," she said.

Useless

Until the weekend, locust fighters thought they had won the battle over Australia's worst locust outbreak since December 2000.

More than 200,000 hectares (494,000 acres) have been sprayed in a bid to contain the plague.

But the heavy rainfalls that ended the drought last month rendered the insecticides virtually useless.

New South Wales farmer Joe Davis, who has already lost crops to the locusts, said he had been warned to expect the worst.

"In a few days, we will see locusts that will just black the sun out," he told ABC television. "There won't be a green thing, they'll even eat the clothes off the washing line."


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The BBC's Phil Mercer
"Vast areas of farmland have been destroyed"



SEE ALSO:
Australia faces plague of locusts
27 Apr 00  |  Asia-Pacific


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