Mystery black substance on beach turns out to be millions of dead insects

The strange sight had baffled locals (Image: John Lillibridge)

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A mystery black substance that marred a US beach has been identified as millions of dead insects, it has been reported.

Experts got on the case after reports were made of the bizarre sight on Wells Beach, Maine.

Locals had noticed the strange dark substance that stained the feet of beach goers enjoying the retreat before reporting the bizarre find at the weekend.

Ed Smith, who has walked the beach for years, told local media he had never seen anything like it.

He first noticed the sight on Sunday and said that dozens of other locals had also noticed the strange appearance, which he said had stained his feet.

A photo of the insect, at 20x magnification, taken with a phone through a microscope
(Image: Linda Stathoplos)

The Portland Press-Herald reported that Steve Dickson, a marine geologist with Maine Geological Survey, discovered that the black substance was in fact the 'collective carcasses of millions of dead insects.'

He said: “This is the first time I’ve seen or heard of this in my 35 years.

"Normally this time of year we get calls about too much seaweed (wrack) on the beach and the swarming flies that hang around the decaying seaweed. This wasn’t that.”

He said he is still working with entomologists on figuring out what the bugs are and where they came from and why.

But he said he didn't expect it to be a recurring phenomenon and that the bug debris that was left behind is likely to soon wash back out to sea.

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Linda Stathoplos and John Lillibridge, a married couple who live nearby and who are both retired oceanographers, were also enlisted to solve the mystery.

Linda said: “I collected some of the stuff, brought it back and put them under my microscope. It was clearly little bugs.”

Asked why the bugs might be staining people’s feet, Mr Dickson reportedly said bugs often eat plants that have pigments and in some countries bugs are still used to dye garments.

“You never know what nature is going to bring next,” he added.

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