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Insect attack-A Warning Signal of Environmental Disruption.

Updated on October 14, 2013
Grasshopper attack.
Grasshopper attack. | Source

There is a phenomenon which has been happening for some weeks in East Java when thousand of caterpillars (Desiciria inclusa) attack some villages in Probolinggo. Probolinggo is a city which is also known as the country's center of mango production. People in Probolinggo are mostly make a living from growing mango trees and sell the fruits to all parts of the country including for export.

Desiciria inclusa.
Desiciria inclusa. | Source

Thousand of caterpillars belong to species Desiciria inclusa, have heavily widespread in 7 sub districts of Probolinggo city, gnawing all kinds of trees they manage to crawl. Since growing mangoes is the main source of income, the villagers at those villages suffer a lot for not being able to harvest their mangoes. Around 9000 mango trees have been reported got damage and fail to bloom, and not to mention other productive crops other than mangoes.

Local government of East Java Province make some efforts, tries to anticipate the attack to other plantations in the area like coffee and cacao.

What Has Caused Environmental Imbalance ?

There are some explanations given by entomologists and environmental experts about the causes of caterpillars attacks in East Java :

1. Extreme Weather :

Indonesia has two seasons: rainy and dry seasons. Those seasons determine animals life cycle in nature including the metamorphosis of insects. In 2010 until early 2011 rainy season has taken place much longer than it is supposed to happen. Rainy season dominated almost the whole 12 seasons in 2010. This prolonged rains have created some problems in nature like floods, interference in food chain and in caterpillars life cycle.

Caterpillars need dryer weather to able to molt from caterpillars into adult insect but too much water in their surroundings will hinder them from making cocoons.

The Effect of Weather Disruption.

As it's already been mentioned that extreme weather problem may interrupt insects life cycle. Entomologists (insect experts) say that prolonged rainy season in 2010 up to early 2011 has caused many insects to keep staying in their forms as larva and caterpillars. Those caterpillars naturally consume a lot of food to eat in preparation for the next step of their life cycle when they have to "sleep" as pupas inside cocoons. High food consumption also happens when they grow from larva into bigger caterpillars. The need of much food explains why they forage for food and invade farmers' cultivated plants and anything they can eat.

2. Interrupted Metamorphosis :

Caterpillar is one of the forms in the life cycle of insects or known as metamorphosis. Besides larval or caterpillar stage, there are other three following stages in metamorphosis which are know as pupa, butterfly, and eggs stages. Insects have their life cycle complete if they undergo those four steps in metamorphosis.

Unfortunately complete metamorphosis doesn't always take place successfully, interruption in our season is considered to be one of the factors which interfere the metamorphosis.

Birds as insect predators.
Birds as insect predators.

3. Interrupted Food Chain.

Birds are insect eaters. As insect predators, their role in natural food chains have controlled the insects population. Lacking or minimizing of bird population caused by bird hunting, vanishing bird habitats, and increasing bird predators, may lead to imbalanced food chain and bring consequence of explosion in caterpillar population like what happens in Probolinggo now days.

Bromo with its sea of sands.
Bromo with its sea of sands.

4. Insufficient Food Supply.

Prior to caterpillar attack in Probolinggo (latest news says it already spreads to Jombang,another city near Probolinggo), Bromo, a mountain in East Java, has been exploding and still shows its fluctuating activities until now.

Entomologists also give analysis that Bromo eruption has caused insects food supplies around the mountain much decreased and the eruption also brings effect pushing away those insects to migrate to other safer areas with abundant food supply around Bromo. Those creatures, with the help of direction of wind blows, happen to land in Probolinggo and its adjacent cities.

A markerbromo -
Mt Bromo, Sukapura, Indonesia
get directions

Location of Bromo to Probolinggo and other cities.

Those caterpillars do not stop at those economy plants only, they also invade people's houses and their social facilities like mosque, schools, and office buildings.

I think nobody likes to live closely to those ,annoying and loathing, creatures due to their appearance and effects. Besides economic disturbance, the attack also causes many village residents to suffer from itches,psychological tension, being reluctant to do activities inside homes, and in more serious effect is like a trauma so that they need to be evacuated to a safer place.

Caterpillars invade mango plantation and homes.
Caterpillars invade mango plantation and homes. | Source

How They Solve The Problem.

  • Although it's not a preferable method due to its negative impact, but many people including, Sub District Government use insecticide to expel those animals. The use of insecticide in emergency situation like this is understandable as long as it is stopped as soon as the problem is manageable.
  • Supply the predators. Birds have been released in the areas which suffer caterpillar attacks.
  • Use shaman. East Java people are close to spiritual life that's why they also counter this problem with spiritual approach. Some shamans have been invited to chant prayers which are believed to drive (not to kill) the insects out.

Caterpillar attacks in East Java can be considered as a warning addressed to all of us to treat our environment more wisely. This is a lesson teaching us not to ruin the balance of nature and to conserve the earth more lovingly.


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    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      As a farmer, I have often noticed caterpillar attack in my vegetable patch. Thanks for dealing with the topic sincerely.

      Your hub is useful and imformative.


    • profile image

      ace maxs 5 years ago


    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

      @Nell Rose: Besides their attacks on commercial plants, those caterpillars also caused other problems like itches, psychological inconvenience, and trauma. Thank you for reading this hub Nell.

      @Peggy W: Yes, the condition is much better to day, since the attacks have no longer taken place. We've got a lesson from this incident that we must protect our environment wisely. Thank you for your visit, Peggy.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

      @ Mulberry1:Increasing the bird population is a good natural way in solving this problem, although it must be done controlablly too, to keep populations of all organisms in balance

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Since I read this many months ago, has the situation gotten better? Were the farmers able to plant another crop and harvest it OK?

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

      Hi, I remember seeing something like this on TV, I remember them saying that people were getting quite severe itching attacks, not very pleasant, interesting stuff, thanks nell

    • mulberry1 profile image

      Christine Mulberry 6 years ago

      Increasing the bird population sounds like a great alternative for controlling the number of caterpillars.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

      @2patricias: Yes,some environmental disruptions are caused by nature, but as we all concern that human's activities have made it worse. Deforestation, air and water pollution are some examples we can mention, and those bring major impact to environment either locally or globally. Thank you very much for reading and commenting.

      @Multibrand: We hope that caterpillar invasion won't continue spreading to wider areas. Many people have cut and plan to cut trees due to the invasion which actually will make this condition worse. Thank you very much for your visit.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This hub should be a warning about the wider effects of environmental imbalance. The loss of the main crop will cause hardship for local farmers, that will never make the international news - yet will be the major event of their year (probably).

      I note from the comments above that not all environmental imbalance is due to man made events, and I agree. Sometimes nature causes these problems - other times it is human.

      Thanks for this interesting and informative hub.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

      Yes, some alterations happen naturally and there are also happenings caused by human. We all hope that human deeds to nature won't make the condition worse. In the case of caterpillar attack, many people catch its predators, mainly birds, for economy reason. Global warming which has caused weather anomaly is also responsible for the incident to happen. Thank you very much for your nice comments and sympathy Peggy. God Bless You.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Conservation can do just so much but in the case of volcanic eruptions and rainy seasons that go well beyond the looks like Mother Nature is the major factor from what you just wrote with this caterpillar attack. I'm very sorry for the farmers and people in those areas.

      Reminds me of reading about farmers in the mid-west portions of our country many decades ago that would have their crops destroyed by locust attacks that would appear like a black cloud descending from the sky. They would eat everything in sight!

      Hope that all the measures you mentioned get this situation under control soon. Very sad for the people of Indonesia who are having to endure this.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

      Thank you Sweetiepie. I hope people are more aware of the importance environmental conservation.

    • SweetiePie profile image

      SweetiePie 6 years ago from Southern California, USA

      Interesting analysis of the environmental situation in Indonesia. Good read!