Year of the Locust

This is the story of the locust, of the plague, of those dedicated to fighting this battle and of the people who have the most to lose, the people of rural Australia.

Produced by NHNZ

In September, as the eyes of the world focus on the Sydney Olympics, many Australian eyes were staring at the horizon, awaiting the rise of a locust plague of biblical proportions—a time bomb that could destroy the heart of rural Australia.

Summer of 1999—normally a time of drought in one of the driest continents on earth was different. Flooding rains combined with summer warmth provided the ideal conditions for the Australian plague locust to explode out of its normal range into the fertile southern agricultural lands of Australia, an area equivalent to the state of Texas. Locusts ploughed through hundreds of thousands of hectares, leaving behind a trail of utter destruction. This was severe enough, but it was only the beginning of this horror story.

During the winter of 2000 the huge swarms went to ground, laying the highest density of egg beds ever recorded. In spring the earth came alive as an estimated 1000 billion-plague locusts rose up from the ground. As well as looking at the biology of the insect itself, Year of the Locust examines methods of controlling the plague and the aftermath.

This is the story of the locust, of the plague, of those dedicated to fighting this battle and of the people who have the most to lose, the people of rural Australia.

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