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Tuesday, February 05, 2013


Beware, very poisonous bug

Almost two years ago when I hadn't been long in Penang I got a rash on my face. It spread from my cheeks up higher and surrounded my eyes. It wasn't sore but it concerned me so I went to the doctor. Unfortunately the doctor didn't get off his fat bum to take a look at it. The best he could do was to prescribe an analgesic and I had not even complained about pain. That rash cleared up by itself after a short while and I decided I wouldn't return to that particular doctor.

Just recently another similar rash appeared on my face and also on various parts of my body. I figured it was probably the same thing and probably harmless so decided to wait and see. After a few days it wasn't getting better and seemed to be spreading so I went to a different doctor. He prescribed an ointment and some antibiotics which I used as directed.

A couple of days later the ones on my face had cleared up but the others still weren't any better.
The one on my hand had developed what looks like blisters and was quite painful. The one on my chest had spread first to the side of my body and from there onto my arm. I decided to return to the doctor. He said that normally this kind of rash should clear up after a couple of days therefore it could be something more serious. He was concerned that I might have shingles and that concerned me. I'd prefer to avoid shingles if I can. He referred me to a specialist.

The specialist said it was not shingles and was, as the previous doctor had suspected, from contact with an insect. However, I had had an allergic reaction to  the insect's poison. He gave me an antihistamine injection and a different ointment. He says it will take about ten days to clear up.

I asked him a few questions. I thought he said it was a 'rose beetle' but from my search on the web that is not the one. I found the correct one under 'rove beetle', however there are many species of rove beetles. I had to search 'rove beetle Malaysia' to get a description of the one that I had come in contact with.

Between the doctor and the internet I have learned to following.

If these little bugs land on you, don't slap them. You will spread the 'juice'. Maybe I did that, I don't remember. The best way to get rid of them is to blow them off. Even if you don't slap them they can still spread their 'juice' on you. I found a movie on youtube that showed one in a container and over four minutes it excreted quite a few times.

What do you do after you inadvertently slap one? Well there seems to be some disagreement. One page online suggested washing it with soap and water, another salty water but the doctor said that adding water to the poison can help it to spread. He mentioned that someone washed their hands and then their face and spread it to their face. I'm not sure what you are supposed to do.

Maybe the best thing is to make sure you don't attract them. These creatures live in the paddy fields. They are useful there as they eat smaller insects. However, during heavy rain or floods the beetles may migrate to drier areas—like my home. Generally homes in Malaysia don't have insect screens. These beetles are attracted to light and apparently they like high-rise buildings on a hill that are surrounded by jungle. And I thought this was such a delightful place to live.

As I am writing this I feel something crawling across the back of my hand. It is a natural reaction for me to brush it off. I stop myself and blow. Fortunately it is an ant. I'm writing in the daytime and the rove beetles usually come out at night. Somehow I think I need to change my habits.

So, just how bad is the 'juice' of this little creature? On so many sites I found it stated that the toxin is 12 times more toxic than cobra venom.

I hope I don't ever inadvertently eat one.

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