Thousands of hairy caterpillars have been found on 30 pine trees in Tanjung Duren Utara, West Jakarta. This is the first known caterpillar attack in Jakarta since the initial outbreak was reported in East Java two weeks ago.
The head of the West Jakarta Forestry and Agriculture Office, Bambang Wisanggeni, said his office sprayed the trees with insecticides on Monday.
“So far the caterpillars have only been found in Tanjung Duren Utara,” Bambang said, adding that he could not guarantee that the caterpillars plague would not spread elsewhere in Jakarta.
“This is a natural phenomenon. We will keep monitoring the situation. We have sent samples of the caterpillars to the Bogor Agricultural Institute,” he said.
Locals at Tanjung Duren Utara said the caterpillars had crawled into people’s houses and caused skin rashes.
“The caterpillars are very disturbing. They crawl into the house and make our skin itch for days. They have long hairs,” resident Nurhayati said.
According to the Agricultural Ministry, the caterpillars do not harm crops. The government is currently observing the spread of the pest.
The caterpillars were first found in some areas in East Java. Within days, similar attacks were reported in Bekasi, West Java and Buleleng, Bali.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Suswono told the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday that caterpillars would not affect food supply.
“It does not affect the food plants because the caterpillars only attack the leaves and do not kill the plants,” he said.
Researches are still observing and finding out the main cause of the outbreak, he said.
“It could be caused by migration or that the old habitat has been destroyed. Another assumption is a lack of natural predators such as birds,” he said.