Locust Swarms Descend on Egypt Like Biblical Plague

What might you do if a churning black cloud rising over the horizon turned out to be tens of millions of flying insects headed straight for you?

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Amru Salahuddien / ZUMA PRESS

Swarms of locusts fly over Al-Moqattam district of Cairo on March 2, 2013.

What might you do if a churning black cloud rising over the horizon turned out to be tens of millions of locusts headed straight for you?

The word you’re looking for is probably “hide,” though if we’ve learned anything from books like On the Banks of Plum Creek, it’s that there’s not much you can do when confronting a swarming, migratory bug bent on devouring every bit of vegetation in sight.

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Folks in Giza, Egypt — home of the famous pyramids — are presently grappling with just such a plague, having to fend off upwards of 30 million locusts according to official estimates (via Arutz Sheva). The insects arrived this weekend, coincidentally just a few weeks before the Jewish Passover (March 25 through April 2). In the biblical book of Exodus, locusts are one of 10 plagues delivered upon Egypt after the pharaoh refused to free the enslaved Israelites . (The rest of the plagues include all sorts of nastiness, including frogs, lice, hail, boils and the death of every firstborn Egyptian son). It sounds like this modern-day version is already taking its toll, too, attacking farms in the area and doing considerable damage to local agriculture.

Officials are warning locals not to burn tires (apparently smoking rubber is to grasshoppers what citronella is to mosquitoes) out of concern that the fires could spread. And in nearby Cairo, they’ve reportedly had some success dealing with the insect inflow: Egypt Independent cites the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation as claiming to have eradicated 95% of the Cairo-specific swarms, though estimates place that total at just north of 17,000 — a tiny fraction of the total.

The upside? It’s not clear there is one, although locusts are considered edible in parts of the Middle East so there’s plenty of protein for the adventurous. Even better: local meteorologists predict strong winds on the way, which Egypt’s Agriculture Minister has said he hopes blows the bugs out of the country altogether.

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