Rotting beetles odour sends UG students, staff home

Students and staff members of the University of Guyana (UG) Turkeyen Campus were sent home early yesterday owing to the persistent pungent smell of rotting beetle carcasses which has saturated the campus since last week.

All classes, as well as administrative and other work, ceased from 2:00pm yesterday because of the smell and campus officials indicated that the university’s Facilities Maintenance Division has commenced remedial action on the campus to reduce the pungent odour.

Having taken these actions, UG officials are hoping to have work and classes continue as normal from today. Students and staff members of the university began to complain about a strong unpleasant smell at the university last week.

But even as UG closed its operations for the afternoon, at least one of its staff members questioned the move, noting that the smell was worse last week but no such actions were taken.

The cause of the smell, as of last week, was not ascertained although leaking sewage, rotting grass and stagnated flood waters were some of the reasons advanced.

However, on Monday, Biology Lecturer Calvin Bernard posited that the smell was not being caused by sewage, but the rotting bodies of decomposing beetle larvae which drowned as a result of heavy rain.

He said that the larvae are likely those of the small black species which chase the fluorescent lights at the university by the hundreds during the rainy season.

The beetles have their colonies in the ground, and apparently, the surrounding ground of UG is littered with beetle colonies. The insects usually lay their eggs in the ground where their larvae hatch and stay until their metamorphosis into the adult beetle is complete. But, before the beetles completed their metamorphosis, the university’s grounds were saturated by the excessive rains which left large pools of water everywhere. Since the larvae are unable to tolerate prolonged submergence in the water they drowned.

Bernard said that the large number of dead larvae and other insects in the university grounds had attracted a large number of herons and egrets but the birds did not even put a dent in the numbers of dead insects.

And, after the larvae began to rot, the birds stopped eating them.

Bernard said that he did not know how long the carcasses would take to rot completely, and that the longer the existing situation continued, the greater the possibility for bacteria to grow.

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