Did you know Charlie ants are actually beetles, not ants? In Malaysia, these beetles are called Charlie ants or Semut Charlie cause they look just like ants rather than beetles.
If you have been attacked by Charlie ants before, you would how painful the experience was. Though they look like regular ants, Charlie ants are venomous and can cause mild to severe contact dermatitis. It’s a red, itchy rash caused by Pederin, a potent toxin released by the insect. There have been a few cases in Malaysia where Charlie ants infested condominiums. They usually came out in large numbers during warm weather and are more commonly found in the northern states of Malaysia Penang, Kedah, and Perlis, especially in paddy fields. For people who haven’t seen or experienced one, let us tell you everything about this little vicious insect.
What are Charlie ants
Even though in Malaysia is it called Charlie Ant, it is actually a different species from an ant. Most people were confused by their name and their appearance that looks similar to an ant. They are between 1 cm to 3.5 cm long in size and alternate orange and black colour from their abdomen to head. Surprisingly, they are the species of beetle in the Paederus Genus, also known as Rove Beetles. They are the largest family of North American beetles with about 400 species that are disastrously not well studied! In case you are wondering if Charlie ants can fly, the answer is YES.
What attracts Charlie ants
The insect is often found in wet areas such as agricultural soils, paddy fields, and home gardens. But many people are wondering why Charlie ants were found in your room even though you’re living in condominiums and apartments that do not come with gardens. It is because these beetle insects are naturally attracted to light when dark, especially during the evening while you’re sleeping. Caution should be exerted during the rainy season which is the peak season for rove beetles to look for shelter inside your home.
What Charlie ants nest looks like
Charlie ants live like ants and termites colonies. They also nest in decaying organic matter and soil and they hide under rocks, plants and debris.
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Why are rove beetles in my house
It is because the Charlie bug originally lives in decomposing organic matter and soil. Homeowners will find most of this vicious insect in secret places under their garden, rocks, logs, leaves in the yard, and accumulated debris since the pests prefer to live outdoors. They are very portable when looking for victims and efficiently climb trees, bushes, and other items on the ground. The pests often crawl inside through cracks and gaps in foundations, though open doors or windows also provide entry to your house. Charlie ants may migrate to drier areas that are inside your home during heavy rains and floods. Meanwhile, this insect can be seen crawling around on the ground during daylight.
How to get rid of rove beetles in house
Prevention is better than cure. Charlie ants frequently become particular invaders of homes and other buildings. The best procedure to help prevent problems includes habitat reduction and sealing entryways to help keep rove beetles from gaining access to the interior of homes or buildings. Homeowners can also reduce the insect’s access by sealing any cracks or openings around windows, doors, and other possible entrances.
But if you find a sign of their existence in your house, immediately remove any decaying matter near your place. Eliminate their habitat by mowing the grass around and get rid of their source of rove breeding. Changing your white light bulbs to yellow colour light will decrease the attraction of Charlie insects to come over to your house. You also can trick them away by setting the light outdoors and minimising the use of lights inside your house. Besides that, it’s best to turn off the light while sleeping to stop them from coming.Discover properties for rent
Why are Charlie ants dangerous?
Charlie ants are considered dangerous pests but won’t reproduce in houses and can’t cause any structural damage because they are a nuisance indoors. They can hurt you by not attacking you but they will wait for you to start the ‘fights’. This happens when you crushed or touched the beetles.
How to avoid being bitten by Charlie ants
Did you know Charlie ants actually do not bite or sting? It is exposure to Pederin that caused reactions. If you crush the beetles with your bare hands, the toxin is released and absorbed by your skin. The correct way is not to touch or kill Charlie ants with your bare hands, this will cause them to bite or sting. The Ministry of Health Malaysia (MoH) has released precautionary measures on how to avoid being attacked by Charlie ants and what to do if you were exposed to the toxin:
- Avoid physically touching Charlie’s ants
- Recognise and avoid disturbing the Charlie ants.
- Blow if Charlie ants are perched on your skin.
- Wash the skin area with soap and water
What happens when you got attacked by Charlie ants
In general, Charlie ants’ ‘bite’ can cause a burning sensation, itching, burns, a red rash, and bumps on the skin. People may have different responses after exposure to the toxins. It depends upon its concentration, duration of exposure, and individual health conditions. Some people will have vomiting, high fever, body pain, headache, and even worse can cause blindness if it occurs in the eye.
This is followed by painful irritation and itching with extensive pustules and blistering of the skin after four days. The affected areas remain irritated, blistered, and sore for 10 days. Other important points, where the toxins go is very important. Toxin on the hands, or exposure near body joints, can spread the toxin to other areas of the body and others. For example, If you accidentally transfer the toxins on your hands to your eyes, you may experience ‘Nairobi eye’, a type of conjunctivitis.
Charlie ant ‘bite’ treatment
There is no specific treatment available for exposure to Charlie ants toxin. But here are a few things that you can do at home to treat your condition;
- Immediately wash the affected area with soap and water if a Charlie Ant is accidentally crushed against the skin. Washing shortly after exposure will remove much of the toxin before it has time to harm the skin.
- Use cold compresses, antihistamines, or apply aloe vera to alleviate the symptoms on exposed areas.
- Wash the blister with warm, soapy water, and then apply a topical steroid or antibiotic every day. This can prevent a secondary infection and ease redness, swelling, and pain.
Applying a cold compress to the lesion several times a day can also ease swelling and pain.
Edited by Rebecca Hani Romeli
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