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Last Updated: Saturday, 27 November, 2004, 18:21 GMT
Locust alert in Canary Islands
A farmer in Fuerteventura burns tyres to deter locusts from eating her crops
Farmers fear their crops may suffer the same devastation as in Africa
The arrival of swarms of locusts in Spain's Canary Islands has prompted the authorities to order a state of alert.

The regional government said some 5,000 African locusts had been found in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura on Friday.

An agriculture ministry spokesman said 1,500 litres of insecticide had been shipped in to exterminate the bugs, which have not reached high levels yet.

Officials may begin spraying if the locusts, which have devastated crops in West Africa, start to arrive in force.

Hot winds

Regional agriculture minister Pedro Rodriguez Zaragoza travelled to Lanzarote, one of the worst affected islands, on Saturday.

The invasion is believed to be the worst faced by the islands since the 1950s.

Locusts poisoned by farmers in Las Playitas, Fuerteventura
Spraying will begin if the number of locusts arriving from Africa grows

He said spraying with the toxic insecticide might be needed if strong, hot winds continue to blow in from Africa, as meteorologists predict.

The Canary Islands, a popular tourist destination, lie only about 60 miles (100 km) from the closest African territory, Western Sahara.

Locusts can travel twice that far in a day in search of food.

Mr Zaragoza insisted the presence of the bugs in the Canary Islands was at present insignificant - and that they would be exterminated before they could cause the kind of damage seen in Africa.

He told Spanish newspaper El Pais that the recorded density was still less than 0.2 insects per square metre - compared to 12,000 per square metre in parts of Africa.

However, officials fear a recent hot spell may have helped locusts mature.




SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Desert Locusts
18 Nov 04 |  In Depth
Locust crisis 'could get worse'
18 Oct 04 |  Africa
Taking arms against the swarms
07 Oct 04 |  Africa
Why locusts swarm
27 Mar 01 |  Science/Nature


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