The District of Probolinggo in East Java is popularly known as the producer of Mango fruit.
Since March, millions of hairy Caterpillars have cropped up in at least five sub-districts in Probolinggo, invading fields and homes destroying more than 8,800 Mango trees and causing itchy rashes among residents.
Though the phenomenon is centered largely in Probolinggo smaller reported outbreaks in Madiun, East Java; Kendal, Central Java; Yogyakarta; Buleleng, Bali, Sumedang, Subang and Bekasi, West Java; and most recently West Jakarta, have prompted fears of a widespread infestation.
Unpredictable weather together with a decline in natural predators of Caterpillars is blamed to be responsible for the plague of caterpillars in parts of the country.
But an entomologist at the Bogor Institute of Agricultural (IPB) says there is no connection between the outbreaks in Probolinggo and those in the other areas. He said that there are at least 120,000 types of caterpillars in the world, so those found in Bekasi and Probolinggo would be different from each other.
Health Minister Endang Sedyaningsih on Thursday said that the government would offer free treatment to anyone suffering ailments as a result of the Caterpillar outbreak.
She further said that the hairy Caterpillars mainly caused skin irritations. She advised anyone coming in contact with the creepy crawlies to first wash their skin to get rid of any Caterpillar hairs. If the itchiness doesn't go away, people can then go to a local health clinic.