Israel is battling a swarm of locusts from Egypt to prevent crop damage in the south of the country.
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 insects covered nearly 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of desert overnight, officials said. Pesticides were sprayed from the air and on the ground to try to kill them in the early morning before dew on their wings dried and they could take off again.
Miriam Freund, the director of plant protection in the agriculture ministry, called it a “medium-sized swarm” and her office set up a hotline for farmers to call.
“We hope our actions are effective,” one of the pilots of a plane spraying the fields said on army radio. “Let’s hope the damage will be minimal.”
Locusts, which wreak havoc by eating crops, last invaded southern Israel in 2004, said the pilot, who gave his first name as Shai.
Potato farmer Pavel Rosenfeld, who lives about two miles (3km) from the Egyptian border, said 30-40% of his land had already been damaged.
“Everything depends on the wind … and we are praying that the wind doesn’t bring us more,” he told the radio station.