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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 March, 2004, 08:32 GMT
Australia combats locust plague
By Phil Mercer
BBC, Sydney

A plague of locusts is continuing to devastate farmland in parts of eastern Australia.

It is the worst outbreak in the region for more than four years.

Karen Spellman sweeps up locusts in the central New South Wales town of Dubbo
Many millions of locusts are thought to be on the move

Heavy rains that ended a long drought have provided ideal breeding conditions for the insects.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land are being sprayed in an effort to combat this locust plague.

One farmer in New South Wales said that he expected so many locusts to descend on his property that they would block out the sun.

He also feared that clothes on his washing line would be devoured by this army of tiny eating machines.

Voracious

It is impossible to know just how extensive these swarms are.

Experts have estimated that many millions of these voracious insects are on the move. Their numbers have been swelled by heavy rains which have triggered a surge in breeding.

Already vast areas of farmland have been devastated. In some cases crops have disappeared overnight.

Locusts can travel several hundred kilometres looking for their next meal.

What makes this outbreak so unpredictable is the weather. The insects go where the winds take them. They can also hitch lifts on cars and trucks.

The main weapon in the fight against them is the aerial spraying of insecticides. It has had a major impact in parts of southern Queensland. The aim is to kill the baby locusts or hoppers before they are able to fly.

This plague is a further blow to many Australian farmers who are still trying to recover from one of the worst droughts seen in the last 100 years.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Phil Mercer
"Millions of these tiny eating machines are on the move"



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


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