Commuters on the road to Seawood, on Thursday morning, were quick to notice that a certain black coloured substance was falling from above. Fearing the worst, many people paused the traffic to inspect what was falling on them.
A closer look disclosed that the blackish-brown substance was a large number of mangrove moth caterpillars were falling upon vehicles and pedestrians from the trees and not the sky.
Several people from the area complained about larvae crawling on their body. Nirmala Ranjan, a 35-year-old resident of Sector 27 in Seawoods, said, “I was not alone. Several two-wheeler riders had to stop and brush them off their helmets and bodies. The traffic came to a halt as a lot of caterpillars kept falling from the trees. I had to brush them off very hard, because they kept sticking to my body,”.
Manoj Khairnar (45), another resident of the area, said, “I have been living here all my life, but have never seen anything like this.”
According to experts, caterpillars of larvae of Mangrove moths are a common sight across Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. They feed off Mangrove trees and later fly away. However, Dr V Shubhalaxmi, entomologist and Kharghar-based moth expert said that she has never witnessed such an event before. “This is directly related to climate change. These moths lay eggs when it rains. Since the rains continued till October this year, their egg laying and hatching cycle has grown longer,”, she added.
The larvae ‘shower’ caused panic in Seawoods with several people complaining about skin irritation, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation employees said. “We had to hose down the trees and the entire area, including the roads. We will also get the tree branches trimmed to avoid such incidents. But this was the first time such an incident happened,” an official from NMMC said.