Business, Economics and Jobs

Indonesia's Biblical beetle plague


Rove beetles are depicted in this U.S. Army guide to avoiding hazardous impacts.


U.S. Army Public Health Command

Will Jakarta be spared from the toxic wrath of beetles, creeping westward en masse and secreting fluid that blisters human flesh?

Yes, an Indonesian official tells the Jakarta Globe in an attempt to pacify freaked-out residents of the densely packed mega-city. 

But the government is readying more than 40 response centers just in case the swarm pushes beyond districts already suffering a mass beetle outbreak.

Indonesians call the orange-and-black beetles "tomcats" and the common Western name is "rove beetles." Scientists call them "Paederus" beetles. When they swarm -- and they're now swarming hard in cities on Indonesia's populous Java island -- they leave blisters and stinging welts.

This U.S. Army guide instructs soldiers who encounter the beetles not to smack them; all those irritating toxins are actually swimming in the beetles' blood.

The silver lining, Jakarta?

If you do suffer through and survive a rove beetle attack, you're in historic company.

According to one study, rove beetles are to blame for the third and fourth Biblical plagues, right before the Nile turned to blood and a horde of frogs surged upon the land.

Good luck!