Government engineer, and as public works were stopped for the time, all his organised labour was turned on to the work of locust destruction. The result was most successful. The number of locusts had been gradually increasing from 1879 to 1882. That year the conduct of the campaign was partially centralised, and the numbers of 1882 remained stationary. In 1883 the operations were thoroughly centralised under the Government engineer, and when the season opened in 1884 a large decrease was perceptible. The destruction was very complete that year, and thenceforward it was only necessary to have operations on a minor scale, so as to keep down any swarms that appeared. In 1885 I was able to report that the operations had practically come to a successful conclusion, and it has since been only necessary to prevent the few that annually appear, from increasing so as to make a fresh head again.
The greatest number which, it was calculated, were destroyed in one year was 195,000 millions in 1883, and the following year 56,000 millions. The estimated number of eggs laid by those that escaped in 1883 was 169,432 millions, and in 1887 it was 1216 millions, of which probably one-half would not come to maturity. The extraordinary fecundity of the locust is such that one pair of locusts left uninterruptedly to breed, would in ten years reach 2000 millions, even if one-half of the eggs failed to hatch out or were otherwise destroyed.
The total cost of the locust destruction from 1879 to 1885 was 66,000l.; but as the loss to the crops in a single year, had no steps been taken to destroy them, would have been not less than 80,000l., the outlay has been recouped many times over. The manner in which locusts destroy green vegetation is perfectly appalling. With marvellous rapidity, and regardless of any interruption, they strip off every green thing, and in a few hours the green fields which they attack disappear, leaving a few brown stalks issuing from what appears to be a fallow field.
The Cyprus locust lays its eggs in hard rocky ground. Each female deposits a cocoon, which contains usually thirty-two eggs. The female bores a hole in the ground to nearly the depth of her own body, and there deposits the cocoon, which she then covers over with earth. Attempts were made at first to destroy the locusts by collecting the eggs, but though as much as 1300 tons weight were collected in one year, it was found to be a useless expense, and that the screen system could not be dispensed with.
The prevalence of locusts in Cyprus is noted in an old chronicle of the thirteenth century, but it is only since the forests were destroyed that they have made head in the manner which has been so notable in modern times. It is not likely that the great breeding grounds of the locust will ever again be clothed with forest; and we must look for the disappearance of the locust when the population increases, and with it the cultivation.
The population of Cyprus at the census of 1881 was 186,000, of whom one-quarter are Mahometans, and the remainder of the Greek Church. It is said that under the Venetians the population was 2,000,000, but it is believed that it did not exceed half that number. An English traveller who visited Cyprus in 1815, states that the population then was between 60,000 and 70,000, and the produce of the island was then so small that the population must have been very scanty.
The people are almost wholly agricultural, the principal products being wheat, barley, cotton, carobs, olives, and grapes. From the latter is made an excellent wine, which has been famous from the earliest ages. It was the excellence of the wine which led to the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus by Selim II. That monarch, being very fond of wine, sent an expedition, in 1570, to take the island. The agricultural operations are carried on in a most primitive manner, and the wine is manufactured in the rudest way, the bunches of grapes being squeezed under planks, and obtaining a rough acrid taste from the stalks and grape-stones which are squeezed with them. The amount of wine made every year in Cyprus is about 1,600,000 gallons, of which about four-fifths is exported, chiefly to France, Egypt, and Turkey.
The agricultural prosperity of Cyprus is a matter of the gravest interest to the Government, for on that prosperity the revenue entirely depends. There are hardly any large properties in Cyprus, and still fewer instances of land worked on the tenant farmer system. It is emphatically a land of peasant proprietors, with the result that there are no wealthy persons and no beggars. Property is universally divided amongst the children, and again subdivided, so that one hears of a man owning the sixteenth part of a hovel that is not worth as many shillings. To such an extent is the subdivision carried out, that there are no less than 600,000 registered holdings of real property, i.e. more than three for each inhabitant. On each holding there is a land-tax of four per 1000 of its registered value, and the collection of such small sums from so many owners causes much labour and difficulty. The chief tax on land is, however, the tithe, which is, under Turkish law, the actual tenth part of the produce. It is not quite right to speak of it as a tax, it is really a reserved rent. In Mahometan countries all the land belongs to the State, i.e. the Crown. As each country was conquered the