Invasion of houseflies hits Simpang Ampat residents in Penang
NIBONG TEBAL - An infestation of millions of houseflies has been tormenting folks in Simpang Ampat on mainland Penang.
Nearly all shopkeepers and food sellers here are armed with fly swatters while sheets of flypaper are placed in every shop and market.
Every morning, people sweep up heaps of dead flies that had presumably reached the end of their month-long lifespan.
The flies were coming from open-system poultry farms nearby, said entomologist Associate Prof Dr Abdul Hafiz Ab Majid, a pest expert at Universiti Sains Malaysia and president of Entomological Society of Malaysia.
“The cool days of gloomy skies with light rain have created perfect conditions for an explosion of the fly population,” said Dr Abdul Hafiz.
“Chicken manure left exposed is a prime breeding site. The amount of moisture in the exposed manure is higher than during the dry days, increasing the chances of maggots and pupae maturing into adult flies,” he added.
A check on Google Earth showed that there are numerous poultry farms within a radius of 1km from Simpang Ampat. One farm is less than 300m away.
Over the past decade, rapid development on mainland Penang has transformed small farming villages into urban centres and residential estates. The farms, however, have been there for decades.
Although flies are scientifically proven to carry more than 400 types of germs, Dr Abdul Hafiz pointed out “it depends on where the flies had been before they land on our food”.
“If they had landed on a rotting carcass earlier, then they would carry harmful bacteria,” he said.
He urged Simpang Ampat residents to keep food well covered.
“One fly landing on your food will not create a bacterial count high enough to make you sick. Even so, keep your food covered,” he said, adding that the elderly and people with low immunity should be extra cautious.
A coffee shop in Taman Bagan Tambun has put up signs warning customers of flies.
Many residents The Star spoke to said this was their worst fly infestation in living memory.
“The flies would come thrice yearly, but this is the worst in the past 10 years at least,” said fruit seller Loo Seng Huat, 40, at the Tambun Indah wet market.
“It started about a week ago and the entire neighbourhood is affected.”
Flies could also be seen on vegetables and products sold by Ms Hng Phaik Yan, 45, at the market.
“Customers shy away from my vegetables because they are covered in flies,” she said.
“There’s a drastic drop in business, not just because people are buying less, but nearby residents avoid cooking because the flies swarm their kitchens.”
Bukit Tambun assemblyman Goh Choon Aik said farmers should upgrade to a closed farming system that prevents flies from breeding.
The Seberang Prai city council has issued eight compounds and four notices to a poultry farm since 2021.
“The results of our checks showed that the farm did not comply with licensing requirements,” the city council said. - THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK