WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- Reports of mysterious black substances that washed ashore have been received from at least three Maine beaches.
- Scientists said the black substance is caused by millions of dead bugs.
- It is still unclear what caused the phenomenon.
A mysterious black substance that has been staining beachgoers’ feet in Southern Maine has been found by scientists to be made up of the dead bodies of millions of insects.
According to Marine Geologist Steve Dickson who works with the Maine Geological Survey, it’s likely that the bugs had been floating on the ocean before they were washed ashore.
Dickson said it’s his first time seeing or hearing of this occurrence. During this time of year, the calls they usually get are about too much seaweed on the beach, and the swarming flies round the decaying seaweed.
Dickson and other entomologists are currently trying to determine the cause of the phenomenon, the kind of insects that had been washed up, and where they had come from. He also said the phenomenon is unlikely to happen again, and the debris will be washed back out to sea when the wind shifts.
They have received reports about the black residue on at least three Maine beaches, with several locals reporting that the black substance stained their feet.
Ed Smith, who first noticed the substance at Wells Beach on Sunday evening, told the Press Herald that it was his first time to see something like it in all his years walking in the area. He said he used a dishwashing soap and a scrub pad to try to remove the stain, but it wouldn’t come off.
Smith sent some photos to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), to find out whether the substance is toxic. The department then sent the photos to experts, including Dickson, who helped determine what the substance was.
A statement from the Maine DEP on Tuesday said their staff followed up with site visits to beaches in York, Wells, and Ogunquit after receiving reports about the black residue.
“Staff is currently collecting samples for processing however we do not believe this is oil or a petroleum-based product that has washed up onto the affected beaches. DEP is working with other state agencies to try and identify the cause, our investigation is ongoing” the statement read.
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry explained that the black substance staining people’s feet is from the pigments from the dead of the bugs. According to Dickson, the pigments come from the plants that insects eat.