Life, News, Photography and Reviews from Ubud: The Apple of Bali's Eye

The Big Read « Bali « Hornets, Scorpions, Mosquitoes, Poisonous Caterpillars... And Other Strange Bali Tails

NOWHERE IS FREE FROM THE TAX OF LIFE. We all have to pay for our little slice of Bali Paradise – and this often comes in the shape of our biting, stinging, crawling, flying insect-cousins.

It's the downside of environment-sharing.

Dead green lizard killed by Bali dogs in Ubud, Indonesia

© 2017 Ubud High.

Bali Insects

FIND OUT WHAT TO DO when you come up against a scorpion, a jumping spider, an angry Balinese hornet or an unstoppable army of hungry marching ants...


On Bali, scorpions like to live in dark, damp places that are seldom disturbed. After all, they just want to make a cute home and babies just like everyone else on the island.

It's not their fault they hurt when they make a pass at you.

If you wear shoes, or sneakers/trainers, you will, like every good Balinese person, leave them outside your house or room.

But when you come to put them on in the morning, give them a good knock and a shake before putting them on. Toes and scorpions don't mix. Flip-flops/thongs work better. (And you don't have to unlace them every time you want to step into somebody's home. It's an economy-of-time-and-effort thing.)

If you're gardening, wear a pair of thick gardening gloves and give the area a prod with a long stick before you set to on your weeding mission - particularly if you haven't disturbed the area for a while. On Bali, scorpions tend to be small and black or dark brown. Don't be put off by the size: they'll give your skin and nervous system a run for your money.

And if you do get stung, get on the 'phone to the friendly boys and girls at Toya Medika Clinic – and they'll see you right.

Anaphylactic Shock and its Treatment in Bali

If you have an allergic disposition, you'll also find that as well as severe, hot swelling, you'll also experience some odd, shooting nerve-pain in areas far from the sting-site – for example in the leg.

If you're hyper-allergic, you may in rare cases experience anaphylactic shock.

Symptoms of Anaphylactic Shock

Symptoms of anaphylactic shock include an all-over-rash, swelling of the tongue or throat, trouble breathing, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, vomiting or a drop in blood pressure.

If this happens, go to the doctor.

First Plan of Action: Put some distance between you and the insect, spread some strong antihistamine cream around the sting-site, take a strong antihistamine tablet and take a trip over to Toya Medika Clinic on Jalan Pengosekan near the large Pertamina gas/petrol station just south-east of Ubud's centre – it's near the ARMA Museum.

The good doctors and nurses at Toya Medika will fix you up fine and pat you on the head.

The faster the preventive measures you take for anaphylactic shock, the less reaction you will have later. That goes with any insect sting on Bali.

But you don't have to panic after a hornet sting. It's not a fatal snake bite or a shark attack.

It just needs taking care of.

Poisonous Furry Caterpillars

They're not going to stop you in your tracks, but if you see one, don't touch it. Give it the flick with a handy stick.

There are different varieties on Bali, but their hairs are often loaded with toxins that produce a burning, blistering rash.

Had a brush with one? Apply an ice-pack, have a cold shower, spread on some strong antihistamine cream and take a strong paracetamol.

Go and see a doctor if you start getting breathless or dizzy – always the signs of anaphylactic shock or an allergic reaction.

Ants, Ants and More Ants

"They're everywhere, Chief, they're everywhere..." (From Apocalypse Now!)

Ants are great at what they do: search, march, eat, sniff, follow, investigate, reproduce and colonise. That's their job. And they're great at it. That's what comes from being part of a bigger team.

Trying to fight ants is like chasing a lone mosquito around your bedroom: some Balinese, if they catch you in the act, might take this as a sign of madness and take a step backwards.

The simple bottom-line is that you'll never get rid of ants in the Tropics.

There are just too many of them. And every time you shut off one line of attack, another front opens. Just accept it. Breathe, and get over it. They're stronger than us.

The Good Doctor told us a while ago that Prevention Is Better Than Cure. Like your grandmother, he was probably right.

Don't leave any food out in your kitchen, living-room or bedroom. They'll find it in a flash, and you'll be blaming God and your hotel manager before you know it. Keep your sugar in your fridge.

Don't spill stuff and not clean it up. Wash your plates and pans immediately after a meal.

Don't slurp – particularly over your nice new Mac laptop. Clean your work-surfaces with an anti-bacterial, and wash your ceramic tiles.

Ants, like mosquitoes, hate 'clean'.

If you see a long line that look determined, get out the Kapur Ajaib anti-ant & anti-cockroach chalk, and start drawing rings around their points of entry and exit.

Find their home, and draw a big circle around that, too.

Ants hate chalk or baby powder, and the Kapur Ajaib – available from any supermarket or 7-11 – also contains an anti-ant chemical that further disrupts the colony.

Worker ants bring the chalk-powder back on their bodies to the queen, and end up poisoning her too.

It's a win-win situation.

Tabuan – The Bali Hornet

Tabuan – a largish, lazy-looking, dark-chocolate-coloured hornet – make it their daily business to find and colonise areas of your house that you rarely clean, use or can reach.

They look fairly passive – at about 3 or 4 cms long, they have long, dangly legs when they fly, and make spherical, grey, paper-like homes where they hatch young larvae.

Hornets are very common in Ubud – inside and outside your home or hotel. They often live in sheltered wooden rafters of a ceiling, or behind bookcases or bedside tables that rarely get moved or cleaned.

They're extremely intelligent.

They'll look you in the eye and check you out, and if they don't think they can eat you or make a home in you, they'll leave you well alone.

You're just not their main course.

The trouble comes when you're asleep and you roll onto one – or worse, if you try to swat one – and it'll hit you like a jackhammer. If you disturb a large nest with a lot of adults, you'll be stung repeatedly.

Rule Number One: Don't make them angry.

Rule Number Two? Really – don't make them angry.

Stings are similar to a mild-to-moderate scorpion bite. The sting-site will immediately become acutely painful, and swelling will spread fairly quickly – if you're stung on the hand, it's common for fingers and the forearm to bloat heavily after a day or two if you don't find treatment within an hour or so.

When you see one inside your home, just watch it.

Don't flit about all over the place like you're at a Saturday Morning Ecstatic Dance Session at Yoga Barn.

Follow the hornet slowly, and watch where its home is. Grab a large can of Hit or Baygon – local insecticides – and when it comes nearer you, start spraying. And keep spraying directly at it.

It takes a lot of insecticide to knock one out – maybe a quarter of a large can. And when the Tabuan finally falls to the floor, throw a large book or newspaper on top of it, and step on it until you hear a crunch.

That's Step Number One.

Step Number Two is to get rid of the nest – if you don't, its cousin will come looking for its nephews and nieces and start all over again in exactly the same spot. Check first that there are no more adults inside the pale-grey, clayish-looking honeycomb by spraying it heavily with Hit.

Then get closer and spray more. Scrape the nest from the ceiling/rafter/wood beam with a sharp knife. And, even more close up, spray the area more heavily with Hit.

It'll take a while before another hornet is brave enough to start the whole birthing experience again – in exactly the same spot – but it will.

That's the nature of the beast.

Like elephants, Balinese hornets have great memories...

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