Thursday, 18 July 2013

Man's Biblical enemy. (The locust)


Locust Watch.

Charter Tower.
South of Townsville

Its 0430 am and we are high up in the hills looking west for any sign of the hatching of a new swarm of Locust.
My mate and I have been in the out back for a few weeks now, living in a tent looking West, every day all day, towards the last place the locust were last seen, before disappearing 5 years ago.

My mate is a Australian black man, a Queenslander, loves working with aircraft,  a good guy, one day he said to me, when I handed him the binoculars (his turn)  "That If we keep looking West any longer our minds will travel out to see ourselves looking back at us" and he was serious.

Our Governments agricultural boffin's seem to think the locust will reappear again this year and start to swarm and eat anything they come across, which usually means all man's sown crops and wild life greenery, devastating the farming economy and the wild life.

There is a thin line of crop spraying Pilots, like myself, spread out to the south about 800 miles apart, all of us working for different companies,  looking West across the outback for the tell tail signs of a swarm.

The plan is; Ambush them and this is our first time by the way!
The first of us to sight them, will call in all the crop spraying aircraft and pilots available and we will chase them, spraying them day and night until they disappear again.
A simple plan but unworkable!
We had no spare aeroplanes, When they finally appeared, every one of us was so busy with our own swarm!
We seem to wipe out millions and millions of them and never even put a dent in the swarm, the sky was dark with their clouds.
We usually run out of effective chemical, then we started mixing all sorts of farm chemicals in the hope of continuing the fight against our biblical enemy.
Ancient Man has be at war against the locust (Disambiguation)For over 5000 years.

They are a species of grass hopper, who under the right conditions swarm into billions, it is estimated there are  40 to 60 million in a 1/4 of a mile swarm. Some places in the world the native people find them edible, in fact a bit of a protein rich delicacy, for hungry people, they used to gather them whilst we were spraying them, eating them like sweeties.

Spraying Locust was an exhaustive none stop battle, part of it, was not to get caught by flying through the swarm,
But unfortunately they sometimes just appeared in front of you like a dark cloud, turning away was your only chance of not getting your engine compartments, full of cooking stinking dead bodies, over heating your engine or blocking your air intakes causing partial or full engine failure, parts of their bodies seem to seep into the cockpit and you would get yellow and green slime splashes over you.
They were just relentless.

My preferred method of attack was at night,  as the sun went down so did the swarm, some kept flying but the main swarm landed.
The local farmers would ( If they saw them) place kero lights around the swarm.
They used to tell me that they could hear the swarm on the ground eating their crop.

It was believed this was the time when they would reseed the earth with their eggs as they had always done, since the time of the Pharaohs,
unfortunately there was no gps  for us in them days to plot them accurately and make a plan! for next year.
After the local temperature fell, I would clean the leading edges of my wings and prop and polish my windscreen, I found this gave me a longer time in flight,
Then I would go and spray them all night until dawn. 
The next day when the sun started to feel warm on your T shirt,
it was time to go and witness a true wonder of the world,
we would pile into our trucks and go to the field I sprayed the previous night,
small swarms were already rising from the field, but once the temp jumped another 10 degrees the whole swarm got airborne, blotting out the early morning sun with their frightening proportions,
it was as if we hadn't sprayed them at all, the ground was 4 inches deep in their bodies, there must have been millions of them dead, plus the field was also ravaged and barren of all green,
the Cockies (farmers)  burnt the field out in the hope the fire might kill off the new laid eggs, who knows? it had to be worth a try. 
So we go back to the airstrip and start again.

Do I think we would or could defeat this ancient enemy?
No, not really, the only plus I saw was the fact that we kept them on the move and in doing so they missed valuable land and farms? and our Boffin's did predicted their arrival.
But really I'm not sure they even knew we were there, there was just too many of them to notice us, we were like an ant on the back of a very big elephant.
Another unanswerable question.

Then one day my swarm would be gone,
yes there were a lot of grass hopper about, but the swarm was gone. 
For my area it was over. 
I would walk over to a big eucalyptus tree and lay down in the shade and (di, im i no di tru, di lik lik tasol *) sleep for at least 6 hours or until my mate threw a bucket of water over me, then we would pack up and move South looking for the next swarm and it would all start again.

(*Die, him he no die true, die  little bit that's all).= heavy sleep!

"The hardest work is never too hard, nor the longest day too long.
But I've cut my cake, so I can't complain; I've only myself to blame."
Aussie:  Mowbray Morris.

Be Well.



  1. So interesting. I hate when there are too many grasshoppers or locusts. They seem to get braver then too and jump right at you.

  2. It seems like a dream now,another life time, be well


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