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Doctors Warn Bali Travelers About Rash Caused By Contact With Toxic Insect

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Dozens of travelers in Bali have taken to social media to seek answers for the cause of a mysterious rash. Holidaymakers to the Island of the Gods have reached out to get support from fellow travelers about a painful, blistery rash that, in some cases, has taken weeks, even years, to heal. Concerned tourists have posted on the popular Bali Bogans Facebook group to share their experiences. 

rash on arm

On a post that has now gathered over 300 responses in just 3-days, one woman shared a photo of a nasty rash on her leg. The rash has been confirmed to be caused by an insect known locally in Bali as a Tomcat. The official name for the insect is a rove beetle. The blisters are not caused by a bite or a sting but rather by a toxin released by the beetle when it comes in contact with the skin. 

Close Up Of a Rove Beetle, Also Known as a Tomcat in Bali On a Green Leaf

The traveler asked fellow group members to share their experiences with Tomcat rash, and dozens could echo her observations. Some people commented that if it wasn’t for the post, they’d have never figured out what caused their own rash. One woman replied that she’d finally figured out what caused her rash that appeared while she was in Bali six weeks ago. 

Some people, who have been living in Bali for a long time, also shared their experiences. One woman explained that she had been living in Bali and developed a Tomcat rash across her back and torso. She said the marks were still visible two years on and joked that she calls it her ‘Bali tattoo’. 

rash on neck

Many people suggested different ointments, creams, and gels that they have used to help reduce any potential scarring and combat the burning and itching sensations. However, these are not necessarily approved by medicinal specialists. Dr. Swaid Abdullah spoke to YahooNews about how the rove beetle causes such severe rashes and what travelers can do to minimize the risk of coming in contact with the insect. 

Close Up Of Rove Beetle Tomcat Insect

Dr. Abdullah is a Veterinary Parasitologist and is best positioned to share advice on the issue. According to him, these beetles aren’t only found in Indonesia but are also commonly found in Australia, on parts of the east coast. He explained that the insects usually ‘lives near drainage lines and watercourses. During heavy rains or floods, the beetle may migrate to drier areas’. 

In terms of causes, symptoms, and treatments, Dr. Abdullah explained ‘These beetles carry a toxic venom called Paederin, which causes paederus dermatitis… The toxin is spread by the beetles if they crawl on you or on your clothes, bedding, or towels and can cause mild to severe skin irritation when the toxin comes in contact with the skin’. 


He continued to say, ‘Initial symptoms include reddening of the skin and a ‘burning’ sensation. This is followed by painful irritation and itching and if untreated can lead to extensive pustules and blistering of the skin after four days. The affected areas remain irritated, blistered, and sore for 10 days if left unattended’. 

If travelers see a rove beetle or think they have come in contact with one and are at risk of developing a Tomcat rash, Dr. Abdullah recommends that people follow some simple steps. He told reporters that the insect should not be crushed or killed. Crushing or killing the rove beetle risks the insect secreting more of the toxic venom. 

Entrance to Bali hospital clinic

He suggests that if travelers have come in contact with a rove beetle, they should wash the skin with soapy water as soon as possible. Dr. Abdullah said ‘This can help since the toxin penetrates the skin slowly. Washing immediately after exposure can help remove much of the toxin before it has time to harm the skin…Afterwards, use cold wet compresses and seek medical help if it gets worse.’

Cropped shot of a pharmacist filling a prescription at a chemist

In terms of removing or killing the rove beetle, a bug spray should do the trick, though travelers should be careful not to make contact with the insect even once it has been killed. In terms of prevention, the advice is similar to preventing any insect bite or sting. Wear long, loose-fitting closing and your chosen insect repellant sprays. Finally, just to be on the safe side, check between the sheets before hopping into bed in case an insect has crawled in. 

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Wednesday 5th of October 2022

My grandson was in contact with the Rove beetle you described. He had severe blisters on his arms and hands. He is very badly scarred. Please watch out for this beetle. If you come into contact with it continually wash with soapy water to remove the venom from your skin. It takes 24 hours to appear and is dangerous. It would be terrible to affect your eyes.

J West

Sunday 2nd of October 2022

These bloody things have been a pest for years….said to have migrated down from Java. Check your towels , suits and clothes before wearing or sitting poolside. Do not get any in or around the eyes and face. Soak affected area in cold water after washing lightly with soap….don’t rub vigorously. Tomcats….be damned!!!!


Friday 30th of September 2022

Oooft, first Covid, now Bugs. What's next? Volcano and Typhoon?

J West

Sunday 2nd of October 2022

@Firechef, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis is on the rise in case you don’t have enough to worry about. If you sit or sleep under thatch you’ll be feasted on by ticks, fleas and ants…..lots of bedbugs too….enjoy