Indonesia’s popular holiday island Bali has been invaded by swarms of rash-causing caterpillars, officials have admitted.
Overwhelming numbers of the dark, hairy, wriggly bugs were first spotted last Friday in a small coastal village, and the swarm has already reached six districts, including Denpasar, the provincial capital, said Made Putra Suryawan, Bali’s top agricultural official.
However, he was quick to dismiss worries that it will affect tourism on the island, saying “Everything is under control now. We have had workers out spraying insecticide and burning rubbish in the areas affected.”
“Tourists need not worry. The caterpillars have yet to spread to tourist areas,” he said, adding that the threat to visitors remains “minimal”.
The neighboring island of Java has also seen an explosion of creepy-crawlies population over the last two weeks, with caterpillars invading urban areas and attacking fruit plantations.
Agriculture officials, who are still attempting to identify the species, attributed the swarms to a “disturbed eco-system”.
Suryawan explained “The number of ants and birds that feed on the caterpillars has decreased significantly. People like to feed ants to their pet birds, and they catch the birds to try and sell them.”
Anyone who comes into contact with the caterpillars could suffer from bad, irritating rashes, according to Suryawan, adding that there was no permanent risk to health.
So far, there have been no reports of tourists being affected so far, said Ida Bagus Subhiksu of the Bali Tourism Agency.
Bali has recently seen a big increase in the number of foreign arrivals and expects 2.5 million visitors this year, compared with 2.3 million arrivals in 2010.