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Tiny bugs stain beachgoers’ feet in Maine

Published: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:33 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:34 AM EDT
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WELLS, Maine (WMTW) - Some people are leaving with an unwanted souvenir after visiting beaches in southern Maine: a black substance stained on the bottom of their feet.

Anne King experienced the phenomenon at Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport, Maine. She tried some strong methods, including Tide-to-Go, when oils and scrubbing with soap didn’t get rid of the substance.

“I wish I had a picture before. They were totally black, intractable – soap, nothing,” King said. “I tried the Tide-To-Go. I figured it would bleach it, but nothing worked.”

One of the beachgoers who ended up with the black substance on the bottom of their feet was...
One of the beachgoers who ended up with the black substance on the bottom of their feet was Christopher Demers from York.(Source: Christopher Demers, WMTW via CNN)

John Lillibridge and his wife Linda Stathoplos, both retired oceanographers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, went to the beach Monday near Wells to investigate. They snapped photos of dark material brought in by a wave and left on the sand.

“We heard there were these creatures on the beach staining people’s feet black, so we were kind of curious to find out what could this all be,” Lillibridge said.

Stathoplos took some samples and brought them home to get a closer look with a microscope.

“That’s when much to our surprise, we saw it wasn’t some kind of algae or an oil spill, like you might expect. It was just a whole lot of dead bugs in the water,” Lillibridge said.

Lillibridge says his feet are now stained, but he thinks it will wear off, like henna dye. He also says the bugs aren’t harmful, and he doesn’t expect the phenomenon will continue for long.

“It’s just a discoloration. It’s a natural substance in the body of these insects. It probably comes from some plants,” he said. “The wind is turning from the south more to the west today, and I suspect between that and the natural tide cycle, it’s just going to carry this stuff away.”

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