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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 November, 2004, 18:28 GMT
Swarms of locusts invade Canaries
Locusts in the Canary Islands
It is thought to be the Canaries' worst invasion for 50 years
An estimated 100 million locusts have forced tourists and locals to abandon beaches in the Canary Islands.

The insects have swarmed into the island of Fuerteventura after devastating crops across regions of Africa and the Mediterranean.

The ground in the Canaries, one of Europe's most popular winter sun destinations, was blanketed in the pink, 7cm (3in)-long creatures.

But experts said their poor condition suggested they would die within days.

The invasion is believed to be the worst faced by the islands since the 1950s, and prompted the authorities to order a state of alert.

Spared disaster

One of the islands, Lanzarote, was fumigated with 1,500 litres of insecticide over the weekend.

But there were no plans to spray Fuerteventura, as the insects were said to be at the end of their life cycle.

Antonio Ortega, director general of the regional agriculture department, said heavy rains and high winds had forced millions back over the Atlantic Ocean.

"They die in the ocean... and the rain slows their flight as it soaks their wings," he said.

Locusts in the Canary Islands
The creatures are at the end of their life cycle
Agriculture Minister Pedro Rodriguez Zaragoza said: "They only have about of week of life left.

"Some have no wings and their legs are broken."

He said the creatures were hardly eating any crops, so the islands would be spared the disaster that had hit parts of Africa.

Their voracious appetite laid waste to parts of the continent. Officials say that in Mauritania, locusts ruined more than one million hectares (2.5 million acres) of crops.

The Canary Islands lie only about 100 km (60 miles) from the coast of Africa.

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

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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