The locust scourge

Many early writers describe great swarms in Karoo “as a blanket drawn up over the sun.” Remembering his teenage years, José Burman wrote that on a clear day it seemed as if the sun had suddenly gone out. Myriads of insects covered the land as far as the eye could see. Flying swarms took up to half an hour to pass. When they landed they caused devastation. “But that was not the worst for they skipped over some areas in flight. The ultimate horror was caused by the voetgangers, the hoppers, who missed nothing. In some towns, channels were dug across the streets in an effort to stop these ‘pedestrians’ from moving further. Some channels were left empty, others were filled with water. Men lined up at the edges of the channels with brushes, brooms and sacks, to sweep up and collect the creatures when they touched down. As the black cloud rolled down, the beaters sprang into action hitting, tramping, beating, sweeping, but quite without effect. The advance guard of hoppers came to the water, hesitated, and were pushed in and drowned. Others followed in endless succession and soon there was a bridge of dead hoppers which allowed the others to cross. Paraffin was poured into the empty channels and ignited, but the hoppers put out the fire as their dead bodies piled up. And, still they came. Nothing stopped them. They destroyed the veld. They climbed over walls, stripped every garden and every tree of foliage. They ate every blade of grass leaving a wasteland behind them. The only happy creatures were the fowls. They rushed about madly gobbling locusts until they keeled over and just lay there – too full to move.”


Rose’s Roundup, Febr 2012 (No 217)

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