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Egypt's Locust Plague Threatens Israel

A swarm of locusts that began in Egypt and has crossed the border into Israel is inviting comparison to one of the Biblical plagues of Exodus.

The New York Times says the swarms are "like a vivid enactment of the eighth plague visited upon the obdurate Pharaoh. Others with a more modern sensibility said it felt more like Hitchcock."

"Locust clouds were darkening skies on Wednesday, three weeks before the Jewish Passover holiday that recalls 10 Biblical plagues, one of them locusts, that struck Egypt during the exodus of Israelite slaves," The Guardian said.

According to Egypt's Al-Ahram, at least 20 swarms of locusts, each comprising up to 80 million insects, have invaded Egypt over the past three months, and there are more believed to be waiting in the wings, so to speak, along the country's southern border with Sudan.

"One swarm of locusts can gobble up 100,000 tons of crops, an amount sufficient to feed 500,000 people for a whole year," Nader Noureddin, an agricultural expert, tells Al-Ahram.

The Guardian quoted officials as saying, "the insects covered nearly 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of desert overnight [Tuesday]."

Israel was put on "locust alert" on Monday, with the Ministry of Agriculture setting up a hotline to report swarms. By Tuesday "grasshoppers the size of small birds were reported on balconies and in gardens in central and northern Israel. But the largest concentration, an ominous black cloud of millions, settled for the night near the tiny rural village of Kmehin in Israel's southern Negev desert, not far from the border with Egypt," The Times reports.

In case you've ever wondered, green grasshoppers and brown locusts are not the same, but are close cousins, says LiveScience:

"But while grasshoppers hop like mad and can be abundant and pesky, locusts can fly. More significant, locusts have the unusual ability to be total loners or to enter what scientists euphemistically call 'a gregarious state' — this is the flying and swarming stage, the stuff of Biblical proportions."

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