For the past week, visitors at Wells Beach in Maine have noticed a mysterious black substance washing up on the sand. The substance has settled near the shoreline and stains the feet of anybody who walks over it.
Smith was concerned that the substance could be toxic and sent photos of it to an official at Maine's Department of Environmental Protection. The official passed the picture along to others, hoping somebody could shed some light on what was covering the sandy beach.
Steve Dickson, a marine geologist with Maine Geological Survey, saw the photos and was stumped as well, so he reached out to Linda Stathoplos and John Lillibridge, retired oceanographers who live near Wells Beach. They went to the beach and collected samples, and after examining them under a microscope, discovered the substance was made up of the carcasses of dead insects.
"This is the first time I've seen or heard of this in my 35 years," Dickson told the newspaper. "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."
Dickson is working with entomologists to identify what kind of bugs are causing the issue and why their carcasses are washing up on the shore. While the thought of millions of dead bugs may gross out most people, Dickson said they are harmless, and he expects them to wash back out to sea when the winds change.