December 1, 2004

Locusts Swarm Canary Islands

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- An estimated 100 million locusts swarmed one of the Canary Islands Tuesday, but the crop-ravaging insects - many with only a week to live - posed little threat, arriving with missing wings and broken legs after their 60-mile flight from the African mainland.

Millions of others in the swarm were being blown back out to sea before arriving on Fuerteventura Island as the strong Atlantic Ocean winds changed direction.

The reddish, grasshopper-like insects began infesting two of the Spanish islands in the archipelago over the weekend, said Pedro Rodriguez Zaragoza, the agriculture minister of one of Europe's top tourist destinations.

On Lanzarote Island, workers fumigated and killed an estimated two million of the swarm that landed near a village this weekend.

But the infestation on Fuerteventura will be left to die because the insects are so near the end of their lives and eating little vegetation, the minister said from his office in the capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

"They only have about of week of life left," he said. "Some have no wings and their legs are broken."

The swarms arrived after wreaking havoc on crops in North African countries over the summer.

Spanish officials say that in Mauritania alone, the insects ruined more than 2.5 million acres of crops. Lanzarote is about 60 miles from the nearest African mainland, the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara.

Locusts can travel twice that far in just a day, and eat their weight in crops every day. An adult is about three inches long.