Deadly ants bugging monks

BY PRISCILLA DIELENBERG, The Star, March 12, 2007

PENANG, Malaysia -- It is common to see “Beware of Dogs” signs. But one warning “Beware of Poisonous Ants”?

The irony is that the monks of the Hong Hock See Temple (sometimes known as the Ang Hock Si temple) in Perak Road have to live with the ants and their stinging bites because as Buddhist monks they are not allowed to kill any living thing. The ants have bitten the monks and devotees but the monks cannot lift a finger. They can only hope that the ants go away.

Chief monk Venerable Boon Keng said a devotee was once so badly bitten that he had to be rushed to hospital.

“We choose to be here at this temple and we have to respect other living things that are here too.

“Maybe the ants like the humans here because they know we cannot kill them,” he said adding that the insects were active during the day.

Boon Keng said an ant bite would normally cause swelling that lasts for one or two days. The swelling can heal fast if rubbed with antiseptic lotion.

“I was told they are fire ants. I have also seen these ants near a Bodhi tree at another Buddhist temple in Penang.

“When an ant drops on you, you must not flick it away or blow on it. If you do, it will bite to hold on. You just have to shake it off,” he said.

He said last year, a disciple used a vacuum cleaner to suck up thousands of the ants and released them into the forest.

“We believe the queen ant was also removed but the problem persists.”

Boon Keng urged anyone who is able to solve this bugbear to contact the temple at 04-228 0503.