Muslim Holy City of Mecca Bombarded by Swarm of Locusts

Cleaning crews clear locusts out of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, January 7, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)
Cleaning crews clear locusts out of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, January 7, 2019. (screen capture: Twitter)

The holiest site in Islam, the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s sacred city of Mecca, has been bombarded by a swarm of insects, and local authorities are struggling to clean up the mess.

Droves of insects identified as black grasshoppers descended on Mecca earlier this week, bugging worshippers at the Grand Mosque. Images of the locusts buzzing around light fixtures, clinging to marble surfaces and even blanketing praying pilgrims spread throughout social media, prompting the city to take action.

The Holy Mecca Municipality issued a statement Monday responding to the swarm of so-called “night cockroaches,” saying it had dispatched “22 teams consisting of 138 individuals and 111 devices” to combat the pests.

The teams specifically targeted “breeding and gathering sites” such as sanitation areas and water drains. The municipality said it was “harnessing all the efforts, capabilities and possibilities available to the eliminate these insects in the interest of the safety of guests of the sacred house of God.”

While a major nuisance, locusts are not known to carry diseases transmittable to humans, nor do they bite or sting. Hazal bin Mohammed al-Zafar, head of the Plant Protection Department at King Saud University’s Faculty of Food and Agricultural Sciences, told the local Sabq newspaper Monday that the “field cockroaches” were of the Gryllidae family and more closely related to grasshoppers and crickets than domestic cockroaches.

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SOURCE: TOM O’CONNOR 
Newsweek