Big Question Marks

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Buggered!

Last week a funny thing happened on the Gold Coast. It's usually pretty breezy here, but one day the wind died down and was replaced by other sounds- a faint buzzing, the occasional "whap!", and we started noticing these large shiny black beetles that were suddenly EVERYWHERE, buzzing around, flying into things, and creating mild havoc here on the coast.

I'm not sure if they arrived here gradually or what. My first encounter with these creatures was on one of my long beach walks south along the shoreline to the neighbouring suburb of Broadbeach. It's always fun to see what the ocean has washed up on the beach in the morning - sometimes it's jellyfish, sometimes seashells, but I got to this one patch that Tuesday morning last week and it was black - and as I grew close I could see it was absolutely covered in squirming beetles, almost the size of your thumb, who mostly were stuck on their backs, trying desperately to flip themselves back over, as beetles do. I snapped a few photos and the beetle patch was over in a couple metres, and I was soon carrying on my business like usual.

Wednesday evening was hellishly hot and sticky, so after a long day of running around, crossing things off the to-do list, I decided to go for swim before Adrian got back from school. I was just finishing my first lap as the sun dipped lower when I felt something pinching the inside of my upper arm. I looked...and screamed! There was one of those beetles, latched onto my arm... I flailed around in the pool, trying to shoo it away, as I noticing a couple other beetles swimming in my direction. Aren't bugs supposed to die when they fall in the pool? It was hard enough to shake off its iron grip, while trying to only scream quietly so the family in the next pool wouldn't come running and find me in my bug-attack distress. Once I was safely out of the water, I noticed more of the beetles flying in and - PLOOP! - diving straight into the pool with glee.

After that, I stayed away from the pool, but we started noticing these things everywhere- in fact, there were parts of the beach that were almost solid black- like, where did these things come from? And they not only swim, but they fly too, and then they just die soon after they hit the ground, so you can't walk around in bare feet (as everyone does here!), or you'll step on a million beetle carcasses.

Our local paper, the Gold Coast Bulletin, called it a FREAK BEETLE PLAGUE. On Saturday, the front page had a picture of a man in a hospital bed with the (very awesome and Toronto Sun-like) headline "BUG-GERED)"... and the story goes that apparently this guy was riding his bike down the road, riding over what he thought was an oil slick, but it was in fact a pile of these beetles (which have been swept to the sides of the streets 3x a day by city council street sweepers). His bike went skidding and he crashed badly, thanks to these stupid beetles.

All we know right now is it's not at all a normal occurrence and that our local environmental people are puzzled that we're suddenly inundated by these freshwater beetles along the coast (but at least it explains the many beach deaths). And that it's such a hilarious/weird/scary problem to have. And that was just last week; this week it's been giant grasshoppers flying into our apartment... who knows what's next?

For more, check out: Beetles take over Surfers Paradise

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