Unusual rains and heat saw beetles reproducing in larger numbers and invading a small town in Argentina
The Argentinean town of Santa Isabel has been forced to shut off its lights for several days in an effort to persuade the millions of bugs that have invaded its streets to leave and look for another place to stay.
The town of some 2,500 in Argentina’s central province of La Pampa has been plagued by swarms of beetles for over a week. “They’re everywhere – in the houses, in the shops,” Deputy Mayor Cristian Echegaray complained to the media.
Local law enforcement agents have blamed the beetles for damaging the police station, residential buildings, and vehicles, as well as plugging the drains at a gas station, among other inconveniences.
Residents have documented the infestation in videos uploaded to social media, showing thousands of bugs in the roofs of their houses and huddling in dark holes.
Some have been filling huge boxes with the insects, driving them out of town in their cars, and dumping them, so as to be able to go on with their daily routine without the insects’ hindrance.
The authorities attribute the infestation both to unusually heavy rains for the time of the year and the heatwave that recently hit Argentina, which saw temperatures rise to almost 40C (104F).
Those conditions were perfect for the reproduction of the bugs, the larvae of which develop below ground.
Millions of adult beetles then flocked to Santa Isabel, attracted by its streetlights. The insects don’t bite or sting, but they’re protected by a sturdy shell and have a tendency to hit things as they fly, so locals were recommended to cover their faces while outside to avoid injury.
Santa Isabel eventually decided to turn off its streetlights and the lights in public building to make the bugs “go away and find another town,” Echegaray told the AP news agency on Saturday.
The town has been dark for the past three days, with the move proving effective. The number of beetles has decreased dramatically during the blackout, he said.