The Jakarta Post
Weeks after a cobra outbreak in residential areas throughout the country, residents of Greater Jakarta are facing another terror: caterpillars swarming their areas.
In the past week, some people in the Hakiki Residence on Jl. Raya Bukit Indah in Ciputat, South Tangerang, have contracted rashes, itching and blistering after contact with the caterpillars.
“Some residents feel itchy all over their bodies after one week of dealing with caterpillars around their houses,” a resident named Nadi said, as kompas.com reported on Wednesday.
“They don’t go to the hospital. They only use ointment to ease the pain,” the 38-year-old added.
Nadi explained that he and his neighbors tried to prevent the caterpillars from spreading farther by burning them. They believed that the caterpillars were from an empty plot of land overgrown with bushes near the residential area.
Officers from the South Tangerang Fire and Rescue Agency, meanwhile, tried to exterminate them by spraying foamy water, but to no avail.
“We’ve never done this before. This is our first time,” said Sahroni, an agency official, tribunnews.com reported.
A similar occurrence was reported in Cengkareng, West Jakarta. Officers of the West Jakarta Fire and Rescue Agency on Tuesday attempted to exterminate a bunch of caterpillars in the Bina Daksa Budi Bakti Social House by spraying a liquid chemical.
“We don’t have pesticides to exterminate caterpillars,” said Eko Sumarno, the agency’s operational head, on Wednesday.
Residents of community unit (RW) 06 in Setu subdistrict in Cipayung, East Jakarta, have also frequently found caterpillars in the last few days. The caterpillars mostly were found crawling on the walls.
“People keep finding caterpillars in their houses,” Dodo, head of neighborhood unit (RT) 01, said on Tuesday.
“They find them creeping on the doors, the walls, even inside their houses. In my own house, because I always keep my doors shut, I only see caterpillars on the windows,” he added.
Dodo said he suspected that the caterpillars were from an empty house, which has been surrounded by wild bushes from its garden. The rainy season has made the area damp, which is favorable for them to breed.
The residents have filed a complaint to the subdistrict administration and called on officials to quickly do something about the caterpillars. Dodo said the residents were worried they would pose health problems for them.
Last week, also in East Jakarta, caterpillars also appeared in Cijantung subdistrict in Pasar Rebo, in Batu Ampar subdistrict in Kramat Jati and in Bidara Cina subdistrict in Jatinegara.
The East Jakarta Fisheries and Food Security Agency’s head of seed development and plant protection center, Arif Santoni, last week said, ”Basically, caterpillars breed faster during the rainy season.”
“The egg cycle in both seasons is actually the same; it is about 14 days. However, the eggs have higher chance to hatch and survive in weather with low temperatures and high humidity,” he added.
Adding to that, the frequent rain makes it difficult for the caterpillars' predators – birds and insects – to hunt them.
In contrast, during the dry season, not only must they hide from predators, the caterpillars also hide from the bright light of the sun as it might kill them. (vla)