Asia

Malaysia swarmed by giant moths

  • 11 June 2014
  • From the section Asia
A Lyssa zampa moth rests on a table in Singapore
Image caption The dark-coloured moths are one of the largest found in South East Asia

Swarms of giant moths have descended on Malaysia, invading homes and even disrupting a national football match.

Thousands of the furry insects, with a wing span of up to 16cm (6in), interrupted a semi-finals match at the Darul Makmur Stadium last week.

Over 800 sightings were also reported in neighbouring Singapore last month, sparking intense online debate.

The Lyssa Zampa tropical moth, which is also known as the Laos brown butterfly, is native to South East Asia.

Biology lecturer N Sivasothi said that while the moth sightings appear to be "unprecedented", it is not a new phenomenon.

"The moths are actually present during other times of the year but in very small numbers, so they are usually not noticed by people," Mr Sivasothi said, adding that the creatures typically emerge between April and August every year.

Ecologist Anuj Jain said moths' use of light for navigation often causes them to head to built-up areas.

"Their tendency to emigrate in search of new uneaten host plants attracts these moths to light in urban city areas," he said.

Experts said that while people suffering from asthma may be sensitive to hairs on their wings, the nocturnal creatures do not pose any threat.

Image caption Many people reported seeing moths resting at sheltered buildings during the day
Image caption The moths excited many people in Singapore, who took to the internet to upload pictures
Image caption While harmless to many, people suffering from asthma may be sensitive to fine hairs on moths

"The moths are harmless and the public has nothing to be afraid of," said Lena Chan, Director of the National Biodiversity Centre at the National Parks Board in Singapore.

"There is no need for people to protect themselves against these moths as they do not cause any allergies or diseases. In fact, they are important pollinators and are beautiful to watch."

Many Malaysians and Singaporeans however, took to the internet to share their moth encounters and to upload photographs of the winged creatures.

Although many seemed to welcome the arrival of the furry insects, others remained cautious.

"In China, moths are viewed as symbols of death as they represent the souls of deceased loved ones," said Chinese astrologer Cindy Wu.

"It is therefore considered a serious taboo to kill moths or disturb them."