Swarm of man-eating butterflies kills dozens in Malaysia, hundreds injured


Hundreds gravely injured and a death toll ranging between 12 and 40 people, these are the results of the brutal attack by a swarm of morsus papilionis on villagers of the small island of Melaki, in southern Malaysia, reports the Kalimantan Press this morning.

Authorities of the small island are unable to estimate the potential victims as the state of panic has rendered the situation difficult to assess for the moment, has acknowledged Police chief Mohd Amin Yaakub.

“One old man was completely disfigured and died in horrible pain. His eye sockets were left completely empty as if they had eaten his eyes while he was still alive” he recalls, visibly traumatized by the latest events.

“We hope the government will come soon,” he pleaded to reporters when reached by phone.

Much needed government aid has been sparse for the moment since the island is situated at 2.3 km off the coast of Malaysia and is still disputed today by Indonesian authorities, which makes the situation even more difficult say experts.

man eating

Once every 21 years, morsus papilionis’ larvae surge in high numbers and eat everything in their path, a phenomenon still not well understood by scientists

A sea of darkness

Many villagers claim the swarm of insects was of such intensity it clouded the whole sky.

“The whole sky turn black and the sun disappear! It was like wave of darkness coming towards us,” explains Abu Bakar Asman, a local fisherman who was witness to the dramatic scene.

“The blackness attack men, women and children. It was horrible! Like piranhas!” he recalls, still shocked by the latest events.

“When they start biting, I yell everyone to cover their face and eyes,” he told reporters, showing his many open wounds.

A 21-year cycle

According to James Welch, chief biologist at the Oxford Department of Natural Sciences, the phenomena is recurrent every 21 years but never has it been so dramatic.

biologist james

James Welch, chief biologist at the Oxford Department of Natural Sciences, is concerned that the Fukushima incident might explain the tragic incident

“Never but once has such a dreadful scene been reported in modern times. The last attack that we are aware of was in the post-Chernobyl era in Ukraine. Radiation at the time had rendered this species very aggressive,” he recalls.

“Many sheep, deer and bears had been found shred completely apart in the region during the days following the disaster. A number of deadly attacks had also been reported although the Soviet Union kept most of the information secret at the time,” he recalls.

“It is just a theory at the moment, but it is not impossible that the Fukushima disaster has something to do with the radical change of behavior of this particular species of moth,” concludes the expert.

In 326 BC, Greek historians ascribed the failed invasion of India by the troops of Alexander the Great to a swarm of “flesh-eating butterflies” which literally decimated Alexander’s army and put an end to the expansion of the Greek empire.

The Battle of the Jhelum River is considered by many historians as the most costly battle that the armies of Alexander fought after it is estimated he lost over one hundred thousand men.


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