Indonesia is being attacked by a strange caterpillar that officials can’t identify.
Villagers in the border region of Yogyakarta and East Java reported the little beasties started showing up ten days ago, reportedly the size of a child’s fist, destroying their crops and giving mysterious rashes to unfortunate individuals who dared touch them.
One resident, who gave his name to the Jakarta Globe as Surono, told reporters that since they appeared, the creatures had initially gone after local plantations, but after decimating the crops, had turned to the local trees and began invading homes in the village.
“Villagers were shocked and scared because these caterpillars looked really unusual,” he told the Globe. “It is a bit bigger than a regular caterpillar, but the hair is so thick it makes them look jumbo-size. These caterpillars also didn’t die easily with the spray.”
According to Surono, villagers have taken to shaking the caterpillars off the trees and setting them on fire, a tedious process that is, reportedly, working to slow their spread.
An official from the wildlife and forestry service told the Globe that he had collected specimens for lab testing, but so far, they have yielded no results about the species.
Since march, the region has been hammered by an invasion of caterpillars of the smaller variety, an outbreak that has destroyed almost 9,000 mango trees, the area’s main crop, and prompted the government to provide free treatment to villagers who had come into skin contact with the rash-causing bugs.
Aunu Rauf, an entomologist at the Bogor Institute of Agricultural (IPB), has blamed the recent invasions on unpredictable weather and a decline in natural predators, noting that this year’s outbreak is remarkable simply due to the massive amount of damage being caused.
“These caterpillars have had a tremendous effect — not only economic, from eating all the mango leaves, but also social,” he said. “Because now the villagers are afraid to carry out their regular activities due to all these insects coming into their houses.”
Just last month in Europe, residents of Pangbourne and parts of West London were hit by an outbreak of “toxic caterpillars”, a species discovered only a year before. While not nearly the size of the monsters hitting Indonesia, these creatures caused rashes and swelling of the throat and eyes.
All I know is that if they get any bigger and sprout wings, these people better run.
For more on the strange creatures, visit the Jakarta Globe.