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Story highlights

Swarms of locusts plague farmers in southern Russia

Local officials say locusts have destroyed at least 10% of region's crops

Russian news broadcasts are linking the plague to climate change

(CNN) —  

Millions of locusts have descended on farmlands in southern Russia, devouring entire fields of crops and causing officials to declare a state of emergency in the region.

A vast area of at least 800,000 hectares is currently being affected as the swarms of insects, each measuring about 8 centimeters long, annihilate fields of corn and other crops.

It’s been more than 30 years since this part of southern Russia suffered such a dense plague of locusts, according to local officials.

Officials say at least 10% of crops have already been destroyed, and the locust feeding frenzy is far from over, threatening to devastate the livelihoods of local farmers.

Walking through what remains of his corn field in the Stavropol region, one farmer, Pyotr Stepanchenka, looks distraught.

“Look,” he says to the camera, “there is nothing left of the corn. The locusts ate it all, from the leaves to the cobs.”

On state television, Russian news broadcasts are linking the plague to climate change, connecting the phenomenon to recent flooding amid higher than average temperatures.

Officials from the Russian ministry of agriculture have declared a state of emergency, but appear helpless to prevent the destruction.

They say they are stepping up efforts to save the harvest by increasing crop-spraying flights.

But high summer temperatures, they say, are decreasing the effectiveness of the powerful pesticides they use.

Also, officials say the locust swarms are moving fast across southern Russia, sometimes too fast for the authorities to keep up, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

“In Kalmikya, Astrakhan, Volgograd, and Dagestan, there is already no food left for the locusts, so they have moved on to other sources of food,” says Tatiana Drishcheva of the Russia Agricultural Center, a government organization.

“They have wingspans of nearly 12 centimeters, like small sparrows,” she added.

The Horn of Africa has been hit by the worst invasion of desert locusts in 25 years, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Friday.