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HISTORY OF CYPRUS

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Canon Pietro Casola
Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

page 4

(2) For the same number of standing trees (100) there were only 25 seedlings. The first shows the result of wasteful and reckless woodcutting. The second is the result of the indiscriminate pasturage of goats.
I have dwelt a little on this forest question because it has very sensibly affected the wealth and productiveness of the island. As the forests disappeared, so did the soil that covered the hills. That soil was washed down to the plains, choked the river-beds and formed malarious swamps, the hills became bare rocks incapable of growing a blade of grass, and the locust at once took possession of the barren ground, whilst the absence of trees deprived the earth of its annually fertilising agent, leaf-mould. There is now a stony desert at the south-east of the island between Famagusta and Larnaca, where tradition says there was formerly a large forest, and to the east of the Mesaorea, on the now dry and desolate plateau, there are many lime-kilns now in ruins, which could not have been supplied except by a vegetation that has now altogether disappeared.
I have alluded to the appearance of the locust as being connected with the disappearance of the forests, and so much has been said about the locusts of Cyprus that I must not wholly pass them by without mention. The Cyprus locust is a small species, indigenous to the island, and is not the great migratory locust which is so well known. The young locusts make their appearance early in March, like very small flies in appearance, but they grow rapidly, and in a few days begin to hop along in masses. They do not begin to fly for about six weeks, and it is during the crawling stage that their destruction is effected. After they begin to fly nothing further can be done.
The inventor of the system used for destroying them is Mr. Mattei, a gentleman of Italian extraction, whose family have been long settled in Cyprus. He had observed their habit of moving straight in masses, so that on arriving at any deep ditch or well, they fell in and were unable to extricate themselves. On one occasion he was watching a large swarm which approached the city of Nicosia; on reaching the walls they climbed up them, and where the top of the wall was broken they entered the town, but in some places there was a smooth band of plaster on the top of the wall. He observed that they could not walk on this smooth surface, but fell back into the ditch. At once the idea flashed into his mind of making an artificial wall with a slippery top to it to arrest their march. Filled with the idea he hurried home, and the first thing that met his sight was a table-cover of shiny American cloth. Dragging it off the table he began to cut it up into strips, in spite of the remonstrance of his wife, who thought he was out of his mind. These strips he sewed on to the top edge of lengths of canvas, and this originated the system which has continued with little change to the present time. Briefly the system was this: long screens of canvas about three feet high, with a band of oilcloth four inches wide running along the top edge of the screen, were stretched along the ground, supported by stakes driven into the ground at intervals. These screens often extend for several miles, and are placed so as to cross the line of march of the locusts. At the foot of the screen, pits about five feet long, 2 1/2 feet wide, and three feet deep, were dug, a wooden frame covered with zinc was put on the top of the pit so as to cover its edges. The locusts on arriving at the screen climb up it, but on reaching the top they find the strip of slippery wax-cloth, and fall down. After trying it over and over again, they turn the direction of their march and hop along at the foot of the screen, till they presently meet one of the pits and fall into it. They climb up the sides to get out again, but are met by the smooth zinc surface at the edge, and fall back into the pit; others come hopping in on top of them, and they are soon smothered by each other.
The system has been maintained by us in principle, but has been improved in detail. The wooden frames have been abandoned, and strips of zinc are used instead, which are laid on the ground, overlapping the edges of the pits. By this means they can be adapted to pits of any size, and a great saving is effected in the cost of transport, for when a swarm of locusts has been destroyed the screens and traps are taken up, packed on mules and donkeys, and carried off somewhere else. In places where the locusts are thick, or where they tend to accumulate, such as the mouth of a small ravine, very large pits are dug, covering a surface of 80 to 100 square feet. The locusts come pouring into these like a waterfall, and making the same rushing kind of noise.
When once the locusts begin to fly the traps are useless. The period for the locust campaign only lasts, therefore, for about six weeks, and everything depends on an active prosecution of the campaign during that period. If large swarms escape the whole work has to be gone over again the next year.
It was this consideration that led me to see that it was necessary to centralise the management of the locust campaign under one head. When each commissioner managed it in his own district, swarms constantly escaped from one district to another, and it was impossible to allot beforehand the screens and traps according to the wants of each district. Much time was lost in sending material from one district to another. I therefore placed the whole under the

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