Marco Carlone and Daniela Sestito
Sardinian farmers could have been forgiven for getting worried when a swarm of locusts arrived at the Italian island in the midst of a global pandemic.
"When the locusts arrived in mid-May, my cabbages were small, it wasn't harvest time yet, they were all still in the field. Then the swarm came through, started to devour all the leaves, leaving only the stem.
"Instead of abandoning the crop to them, I preferred to pick it in advance and donate it to a charity for people in need."
Giovanni is a farmer from Bolotana, a small town in central Sardinia. His and 200 other farms have been hit by a swarm of Moroccan locusts that have been devastating the Tirso valley since April.
Coming down the chimney
These insects have destroyed fields, pastures, grasslands, and invaded houses and gardens. Swarms of the same species had already caused damage in summer 2019 in an area of about 2,000 hectares.
"The locusts feed on the most protein-rich part of the plants, so once the swarm enters the hayfield, there is nothing left for the flock," says Alessandro, a young local shepherd.
He mowed his grasslands to keep locusts away, but there are still some left. "I can see it from the seagulls roaming my land: they come here to look for locusts and find plenty of them."
Another shepherd, Riccardo, has suffered a similar fate, and was forced to buy bales of hay from mainland Italy to feed his flock. "We also needed to put a net on the chimney to prevent locusts from entering the house," he explained.
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