California News

Millions of locusts descend on Central Valley town

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

In the Central Valley a problem has risen that is as unpleasant as it is destructive. Locusts have come by the millions and descended on the small town of Herald, about half an hour outside Sacramento.

Herald has under 1,000 residents and now it looks like the locusts outnumber them.

"I'm used to bugs, but I'm not used to this many bugs," said Debbie Campbell.

Walk anywhere on Campbell's farm, and you can easily kick up dozens of what are believed to be locusts. They've swarmed in on the Sacramento County town of Herald two weeks ago and don't seem to want to leave. Just how many? Some would say they're biblical proportions.

"At least 5 million of them," said Campbell.

"It said on the Internet when we started looking, that between 50-65 per square yard is a severe outbreak. If you stand in my backyard, I've got about 5,000 per square yard," said Campbell.

And they are hungry. We saw them munching on the peaches, there was nothing left of the hot peppers on Campbell's farm and they were even trying to eat the sign for the hot pepper row. They were also working on the rose bushes, which were in full bloom until the unwanted visitors came and stayed.

"They're called 'The Destroyer.' Oh, very appropriate name," said Campbell.

Campbell's grandson often runs the yard with a net and catches quite a few in one swoop. Her dog Cocoa can't decide which one to chase because there are so many.

A UC Davis scientist told her perhaps this dry, warm winter means less vegetation for the bugs to eat. Combine that with a very wet season the winter before when more bugs were born, and all that created a perfect storm.

For now, Campbell catches as many as she can and drowns them in a pool of soapy poison.

"It's not funny anymore. It's not entertaining anymore. It's not pleasurable. It's eating everything that I own and I'm not happy," said Campbell.

Campbell has applied for a permit to the state that allows her to use a pesticide, similar to the one used in Africa to combat their locust problem. Needless to say, Campbell won't be able to get her farm organically certified this year.

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sacramento, central valley, california news, nannette miranda
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