GEORGE TOWN: For the past four years, residents of Shineville Garden condominium in Ayer Itam have come under attack from rove beetles, popularly known as “Charlie Ants”.
At least 10 reports have been lodged with the state Health Department but the orange and black bugs kept returning despite regular fogging and pest control.
Among those who fell victim was two-year-old P. Sushiksha (pic), whose face was inflamed on Monday.
K. Pragalathen, 37, said he noticed inflammation on his daughter’s face but did not suspect it was caused by the beetle.
“I thought it was just an allergy and took her to the clinic where she was given an ointment to apply,” he said on Wednesday.
“The next day, there were blisters on her face. I knew it had to be rove beetles.
Pragalathen, who has been living on the 20th floor, said the bugs had been coming into his home and attempts to get rid of them were futile.
Another resident M. Thanaraj, 37, claimed he was bitten on the chest and back.
“I felt a burning sensation. The following day, there were blisters on my left chest and on my back. The scars are still visible to this day,” he said.
The apartment’s joint management body vice-chairman Choon Keong said the infestation caused nuisance to the 234 families at the condominium.
“The presence of rove beetles in the area is seasonal. They only come out from the grassy fields during rainy seasons.
“We have lodged over 10 reports and the Health Department has conducted fogging operations; the last in July.
“The management has also bought termite poison and sprayed them on every floor, but the rove beetles still return,” he said.
On Wednesday, several officers from the state Health Department collected samples of the rove beetles.
“We received an order on Tuesday to investigate the matter. We caught the rove beetles for analysis.
“We will decide on the next course of action once we have completed our investigations,” said an officer.
State Welfare, Caring Society and Environment Committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said rove beetles usually showed up after the harvesting and burning of padi fields.
He said the bugs could have swarmed the high-rise due to land clearing in their habitat.
“The rove beetles or fire ants are attracted by lights. Their venom is six times more toxic than that of a cobra,” he said.
Phee said while chemical sprays were efficient, one should not hit or rub the beetle if it lands on the body, as the chemical released by it would burn into the skin.
“The recovery period may take about a month.
“In case a victim has accidentally come into contact with the venom, wash it off immediately with running water,” he said.
Last month, a residential area in Taman Supreme in Prai was invaded by rice weevils (sitophilus oryzae), believed to be from a warehouse nearby.
The weevils could be found everywhere in the homes, including inside cupboards and drawers.
Residents claimed the weevils entered the ears of their young ones. Some had to be rushed to clinics and hospitals.