A controversy has arisen among experts and residents as to whether the worms that have invaded some parts of the southern Volta Region are caterpillars or army worms as previously reported.

Dr. Kwame Vowortor, an entomologist from the Food Research Institute and member of the Pest and Insect Infection Technical Committee of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO), told the Ghana News Agency that scientific tests had to be conducted before a firm conclusion could be drawn.

He said the particular specie of a caterpillar could be identified after its adult had been studied, meaning the larvae needed to be cultured to determine that.

He said the “lepidopteran” caterpillar with a hairy cylindrical body, mouthparts and five pairs of leg-like structures could metamorphose into a moth or butterfly as it matured.

One common characteristic associated with the worms was the persistent itch they cause on the human body and isolated cases of skin swellings resulting from contacts and bites from the caterpillars.

Mr Anthony Atomah, a farmer, was spotted scratching his body after returning from the farm and speculated that the caterpillars might have left some itchy substance on plants which found its way into his attire and which became worse when he sweated.

He described the itching as a nuisance and unbearable leaving victims with the option of besmearing as well as drinking “Akpetshie,” a local gin to combat its effect.

Dr Vowortor confirmed what the farmer said and explained that as their defence mechanism, the worms normally left toxins in their trail which, upon contact with human skin, caused an unpleasant itching effect.

Mr Michael Kwakye, a Senior Programme Officer of Environmental Protection Agency, said the area provided a conducive environment at this time of the year for caterpillars to breed.

Mr John Tsrakasu, the acting Volta Regional Director of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, appealed to the communities to help themselves by weeding paths leading to their farms and to avoid contact with the worms.

He said cleanliness of their water sources and wearing of protective garments would also help.

A military team has been assembled to spray the worms and it is led by Lieutenant-Colonel Courage Dafeamekpor.

He said the worms had been controlled in eight communities where the they had caused nuisance and had restricted the people from carrying on with their economic activities.

Over 9,000 farmers and fisher folks from about 14 communities in the Keta Municipal and South Tongu District are reportedly under siege by the caterpillars, depriving fish and crop farmers access to their economic livelihoods.

Source: GNA

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