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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 August, 2004, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
Locusts descend on southern Italy
Locusts in Morocco
A locust swarm can devour as much food as several thousand people
Swarms of locusts have descended on tourist spots in Italy, including the town of Matera, where Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ was shot.

The insects, reminiscent of Biblical plagues, engulfed the ancient stone city, scaring tourists off terraces.

"I'd never seen anything like it," Rosalia Guira Longo, who runs the Albergo Italia where Gibson stayed, told Reuters news agency.

"At night, the ground was carpeted by locusts... they were huge."

Matera, in the southern Basilicata region, is a designated Unesco World Heritage Site for its preserved ancient cave and stone dwellings.

Locusts are not uncommon in southern Italy.

Scientists say the locusts have migrated from north Africa. Some two weeks ago, they had reached northern Nigeria.

Last year's hot summer dried out grain fields, providing them with ideal conditions in which to lay eggs.

Locusts can eat their own weight in food every day, which means a single swarm can consume as much food as several thousand people.

The eventual extent of the damage depends largely on the weather.

The more it rains, the more the locusts breed as they travel.

Locusts ravage northern Nigeria
19 Aug 04  |  Africa
In the eye of the swarm
31 Mar 04  |  Science/Nature

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