Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Paederus the conqueror!

Paederus also known as Papa (in Igbo) or the African Rove Beetle, made an appearance a few weeks ago.   I noticed this flash of red and black on my desk, crawling amongst the rogue ants that are usually exploring the depths of my paper piles, stacks of books and unfinished sewing projects. This particular bug was long and bright and menacing.
I carried on with my writing, trying to make sure the stripy bug was on a trajectory that did not interfere with my arms or fingers while I worked on another revision of a story.

Soon the bug had disappeared and I promptly forgot about it's existence.
The next day, my eye was itchy. I rubbed it with the back of my finger and the itchiness burned. It felt like I had burned myself with a curling iron or used some new eye make up that triggered an allergic reaction.
However, I have taken it upon myself to avoid the dangerous practices of hair curling and eye makeup wearing. I decided long ago that it was not worth it to take such risks with my health and have been enjoying irritation free skin and hair since. So that ruled that out.

I also had no recollection of any incident that would have caused such a burning sensation on my eye. I hadn't scratched myself or run into anything or done anything else that would have made my eye hurt.

I consulted Ogadi, my personal guru of all strange Nigerian happenings. I showed him my eye. Before he could answer, we spotted one of the stripy bugs crawling around on the bed. I moved to swipe it off but he held me back.
Apparently, the "papa"'s venom is a strong irritant to human skin. If you squish the bug against your skin, it releases the venom that causes a reaction that resembles a burn. This is also known as paederus dermatitis which can be quite severe depending on the species and amount of venom that is released.

I watched helplessly as the "papa" crawled towards the edge of the bed.

"How bad is it?"

"It just stings and peels for a few days, then it will go away."

Maybe so now, but the Wikipedia page says that a Paederus species could have been responsible for some of the 10 plagues of Egypt described in Exodus! 

Over the next few days, we noticed many of our friends and acquaintances afflicted with linear blistering wounds on different parts of their bodies. The murder of a "papa" always leaves a nasty trail.

Then, just like it appeared, it disappeared without a trace. I haven't seen any "papa"s since. My eyes are thankful.

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