A swarm of beetles arrives in the UK. Is it the next biblical plague or nature at work?

Twitter/ ChrisBull52

When you go to strange and exotic locations around the world you expect to see some strange animals and insects. If you go to the rainforests of South America you can’t really complain about the presence of mosquitos. If you go to Australia you can’t really complain about spiders or snakes. You can complain but no one will listen. However, if you are from the United Kingdom the worst you usually expect is a mouse in your home, the occasional bat, or a few daddy longlegs in the corners of your ceiling. Recently a woman was walking along the beach and discovered something far stranger.

Sue Weatherill has her coronavirus routine locked in place. She quarantines in her home like most people but when it comes time for her daily exercise she walks along a nearby beach. It clears her mind, allows her to get some fresh air, and lets her stretch her legs. This week Sue was taking her usual walk when she saw something incredibly strange on her local beach.

From far away it looked like there was just a little more seaweed than usual on Clayton Bay. However, as Sue got closer and closer she realized that it was not seaweed that had built up on the beach but bugs! The beach was covered in thousands of beetles and Sue was there alone. At first, Sue was a little shocked but soon her inquisitive nature took over. She got closer and close to the beetle and saw they had wings on their back and were quite large. The mass of beetles was like something out of a biblical plague. She took some photos and went home.

Sue posted the photos online and soon received comments of people along the East coast claiming they had seen the same thing. So why were the beetles taking to the beaches all of a sudden? Well what Sue didn’t mention at first and what helped to solve the mystery, was that all the beetles were dead. 

The debate was raging online over whether the beetles were of the chafer beetle or the heather beetle. The heather beetle is found widely in the UK but the chafer is only found in mainland Europe. Had these bigs come all the way from the continent? Soon Professor Jim Hardie of the Royal Entomological Society stepped in to solve the debate.

He pointed out that the chafer beetle is 15 – 20 mm in length while the heather is 4-6  mm in length. The debate was over. While he had not seen measurements of the samples taken, based on the pictures alone he assumed that they were heather beetles. The heather beetle’s proper name is Lochmaea Suturalis. The beetle is called the heather beetle because it loves to feed on heather. That is exactly why it is found in England as it loves to feed on the heather moors. 

The professor pointed out that in the last year the population of the beetle found on the moors has greatly increased. He believes that many of the bugs survived longer than usual this way and that a swarm got caught in strong winds and pushed out to see. There they likely died and washed up on the beach for Sue to discover.

While the mass grave of thousands of beetles is certainly strange to see, Professor Hardie said it is not a plague or any biblical warning. The local council are not alarmed either and say that the natural tide will take the beetles back out to see. We wouldn’t go swimming near Clayton Bay for a while yet though, just in case.