18 February 2010

The Acid Bug

My blog will now join the short list of results that pop up when you search for "nairobi fly, acid bug" on Google. Mike was hit by one over the weekend.

The Nairobi fly is a small beetle that does not bite or sting, but based on its nickname acid bug, guess what it does? The insides of the bug are toxic, and if you smack it against your skin the juices cause a burning rash. They are common throughout East and Central Africa, and it's the season for them here in Burundi. We think Mike and his friend rode through a swarm of them on their bikes over the weekend, because his friend has some burn spots, too, and the spots appeared on both of them after they returned from the ride.

We've heard of two remedies to soothe the burning, but Mike hasn't tried either yet. One is to use toothpaste, the old-school white kind, and the other is to cut a potato and rub it on the burn area. Both the toothpaste and the potato are supposed to draw out the acid. If you wash the area immediately after discovering you've smashed one of the bugs, you can reduce the inflammation. If you have extremely sensitive skin, apparently having one just land on you can cause small burning spots; Mike witnessed a friend in Congo show up to work one morning with "footprints" across her cheek.

Mike's doing fine. His burn patch is small and I think it's irritating more than it's actually burning.

Image from the blog Muda Mrefu.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Stephanie. That is just amazing.

And to have footprints on the skin just from the bug walking across you? That is just astounding.

I really loved this post. I love reading the blogs of you guys who are overseas and hearing about the things we would NEVER come across here in the US. It is so incredibly interesting. Things I would never even dream about!

Alexis Grant said...

Ah! Those are the worst! Gotta get in the habit of flicking off mosquitoes instead of squashing them on your skin. (I understand that Mike didn't do either.) Enjoying the blog!

Diane H K said...

We used to see large black blister beetles, Epicauta pennsylvanica, in Connecticut and avoided them because of the Cantharidin they excreted when bothered. Cantharidin is a poisonous, blistering terpenoid.

Fortunately, we're further north now and don't see blister beetles. We've got bears, moose, and bobcats instead. :D

Hope Mike feels better soon.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know about my experiment - I've started a weekly "Blog Roundup" of State Department blogs that I know about... and that includes yours! ... and their noteworthy happenings in the past week.

It's my way of trying to make it easier for everyone to keep up -to see who is out there - and what everyone is doing.

Let me know what you think - if this is a dumb idea, I'll stop! LOL!


Anonymous said...

We are attacked by this thing from our hostel...in India ...so pls don't ignore it....its more dangerous thing than u think

Jani said...

You are very mysterious with this. Please share what you know...how it is dangerous?

Anonymous said...

Its true.. Its so dangerous.. And it leaves a blackish scar aftr a few days.. And whch ll remain for few more weeks or months! U can imagine how it ll b wen it happens to face! I must say its terrible

Anonymous said...

It is dangerous as it very painful and it will persist for 2-3 days after that a scar is left which will eventually be gone by a month.washing affected area with soap and applying steroid mixed with antibiotic cream is very helpful.

Unknown said...

Where in india? Kerala perhaps ? Or is it kochi

Anonymous said...

EXactly.. Now I'm suffering with the pain