Locust dies in Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisg
Locust dies in Jerusalem neighborhood of PisgIsrael news photo: Ernie Singer

The Agriculture Ministry redoubled its efforts to battle new swarms of locusts that descended upon the Land of Israel this week, with the grim prospect that more -- maybe millions more -- are on the way.

The latest swarm, which like the others crossed the border into the country from Egypt, numbered in the tens of thousands.

Thursday morning at dawn the Agriculture Ministry sprayed locust swarms from the air and on the ground over the Eshelim region in the Ramat Negev Regional Council. Ground pest control also took place briefly in Hatzerim. 

No other swarms were spotted at the border infiltrating Israel on Thursday at midday, officials said, but a stray was caught on camera in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev by Arutz Sheva reporter Ernie Singer.

However, the ministry reported a small swarm sighted near the Ein Gedi oasis reserve. “The situation is being constantly monitored. Pesticide deployment has been postponed until fog in the area clears,” a spokesperson said.

The ministry also deployed a pesticide crop dusting run at dawn Wednesday in southern Israel in the Har Keren, Ashalim and Ruchama regions.

Officials have become increasingly concerned with the advent of warmer weather and southerly winds that millions more of the insects could be on the way from the Sinai Peninsula, where they have already stripped the fields. Indeed, additional swarms of millions of locusts were spotted in the Sinai, east of El Arish earlier this week, according to reports published in Egyptian media. 

Ramat Negev Regional Council leaders sent a letter, written in Arabic, to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday urging him to grant permission for Israeli crop dusters to spray the fields of Sinai in order to help both nations control the infestation. The letter was hand-delivered to the Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv ahead of being sent to the Office of the President in Cairo. No response has been received.

Meanwhile, Israel is taking whatever measures possible to control the insects once they land in the Jewish State. The chemicals used to neutralize the infestation are specific to locusts only and have no effect on other creatures, ministry officials said, and leave no residue.

But it is impossible to spray while they are in the air, ministry officials explained, and there are no preventive measures that can be taken to stop them.  Still, there has been relatively little damage to crops from the infestation thus far.

Aerial and ground spraying has been fairly effective in containing the swarms, and eliminating them when they appear, officials stressed, adding that the bugs are not harmful to humans, but rather to the agricultural fields where they like to feed.

In fact, there are some humans who enjoy dining on the locusts themselves, as Yemenite Jews have explained, noting that in the Torah there are four varieties of the insects that are listed as kosher. Many have set out at night to the fields to gather what they consider to be a special treat, ahead of the ministry crop dusters, when the locusts are at rest and cannot fly.

Nevertheless, with Passover slightly less than two weeks away, some Israelis are beginning to wonder - is the Jewish State  about to see its first plague ever?