Swarming 'hairy moths' triggers French Guiana curfew
An invasion of Yellowtail moths that cause a form of dermatitis known as the Caripito itch has led the authorities in a region of French Guiana to impose a nighttime curfew.
The affected region is Sinnamary, located 110 kilometres (68 miles) west of the French overseas territory's capital Cayenne.
Since the start of July, public lighting has been switched off at dusk, shops closed and residents told to stay indoors, in the dark and under mosquito nets, the authorities said.
The Yellowtail moth -- Hylesia Metabus -- is found mainly in mangrove swamps but they swarm to lights in nearby towns between 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm.
"The female moths release thousands of microscopic urticating hairs that cause severe itching," the local health authority said.
The hairs used by the female moths to protect their eggs from predators can cause cutaneous conditions in humans.
"The light produced by a television set is enough to draw the moths into homes," Barbara Thomas, a local restaurant owner, told AFP.
"I've been closed every evening for a month now," she said, complaining that the infestation had hit French Guiana's economy badly at the peak of the tourist season.
At the nearby international space centre in Kourou, the base used to launch Russian Soyouz rockets has set up light traps to fight the swarming moths, local engineer Claude Berteaud said.
Sinnamary residents staged a march on July 29 to demand the authorities eradicate the moths.
A committee was formed to tackle the problem and consider measures such as spraying the swamps during the moths' reproductive period.
© 2011 AFP