A toxic beetle that can cause agonising lesions


GEORGE TOWN: Rove beetles may look nice from far, but they are far from nice when they are in close proximity.

When evening falls, the highly toxic paederus rove beetle (locally called charlie) likes to fly out of the woods towards lights in high-rise buildings.

A victim, Rahula Loh, 29, said she always makes sure her condo unit windows and balcony doors are closed.

She lives in Tanjung Bungah with her husband in a condominium near an area locally called Hillside, which is a protected part of the island’s hill range.

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“We use warm light instead of bright fluorescent lamps, but they still get attracted. They are so slim that they can crawl through the gaps of closed windows.

“My husband and I have accidentally crushed them on our skin so many times and we now treat the lesions we get as part of life,” the college lecturer said.

Loh said it was unfortunate that a few days before her husband went on a business trip to the United States, he unknowingly brushed off a charlie on the side of his neck and had to make the trip with a large, red lesion on his neck.

“It (the lesion) is not dangerous. As long as you diligently apply a steroidal antibiotic cream, boils and pus won’t form. But it will still hurt a little for many days,” she said.

Senior citizen WG Teng said his granddaughter was in terrible agony for more than two weeks after coming across some rove beetles.

“She was four years old then and was playing under a raintree outside our house.

“As she got a hold of one of them, I think the rove beetle started to release a fluid.

“Feeling a burning sensation on her skin, my granddaughter started to crush it, only to develop severe reactions to the toxins the following day,” he said.

Entomologist (insect expert) Associate Professor Dr Abdul Hafiz Ab Majid of Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) said the skin irritation caused by the toxic body fluids of charlie is so distinct that it is medically labelled Paederus dermatitis.

“They are nocturnal insects, so if you live near wooded areas or padi fields, it is best to take a closer look if you see a bug crawling on the walls or floor.

“Though small, they are easily recognisable by their orange and black colours

“You should get rid of it, perhaps with insecticide and picking it up with a piece of tissue paper,” he said.

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