‘Like little piranhas’: Beach-goers in California are plagued by swarms of foot-biting bugs that suck blood

Tiny, carnivorous bugs known as “mini sharks” are wreaking havoc along the California coast, feeding on the feet of beachgoers, causing pain and bleeding.

‘It was painful! I was like uh! I jumped out of the water and it was so shocking. I had blood all over my foot and between my toes,” San Diego resident Tara Sauvage told CBS8. “I pulled my foot out. I had blood all over my foot. It was like little piranhas bit me.”

The carnivorous bugs are actually waterline isopods (called Excirolana chiltoni) and grow up to 0.3 inches long — they travel in swarms of up to 1,000 critters, reports Live Science.

Sauvage told the local news outlet that she rinsed her feet and felt fine after about 15 minutes. However, as she dipped her hand back into the water, another began to bite her finger.

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The carnivorous beetles (above) are actually waterline isopods called Excirolana chiltoni, and they grow to 0.3 inches long -- they travel in swarms of up to 1,000 creatures, reports Live Science

The carnivorous beetles (above) are actually waterline isopods called Excirolana chiltoni, and they grow to 0.3 inches long — they travel in swarms of up to 1,000 creatures, reports Live Science

These isopods are a type of crustacean that also includes more than 10,000 marine, freshwater, and terrestrial species, ranging in size from tiny creatures like E. chiltoni to 10-inch creatures that roam the ocean floor

These isopods are a type of crustacean that also includes more than 10,000 marine, freshwater, and terrestrial species, ranging in size from tiny creatures like E. chiltoni to 10-inch creatures that roam the ocean floor

These isopods are a type of crustacean that also includes more than 10,000 marine, freshwater, and terrestrial species, ranging in size from tiny creatures like E. chiltoni to 10-inch creatures that roam the ocean floor.

“They’re called Excirolana Chiltoni,” Ryan Hechinger, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, told CBS8. He said these crustaceans are here all year round.

“It’s an isopod, a relative of chumps that live in ocean and very shallow waters as far north as Alaska and Japan. They have been known to bite people. They’re really hanging in the water. They like to eat fresh meat like a dying or battered animal,” he said.

The bugs are typically found year-round along the California coast and on beaches in the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States and Canada, according to marine life experts.

The bugs are typically found year-round along the California coast and on beaches in the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States and Canada, according to marine life experts. Another type of tiny isopod can be seen above

The bugs are typically found year-round along the California coast and on beaches in the Pacific Northwest regions of the United States and Canada, according to marine life experts. Another type of tiny isopod can be seen above

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‘It was painful! I was like uh! I jumped out of the water and it was so shocking. I had blood all over my foot and between my toes,” San Diego resident Tara Sauvage told CBS8

The isopods usually live under the sand, but they emerge in shallow water during low tide. When a dead fish or other large carcass washes ashore, they quickly behave like vultures and enjoy a meal.

Although they prefer to eat other fish and sea creatures, they are not fussy either.

In 1993, a bunch of the kibble climbed into a toddler’s diaper and drew blood, which her father noticed when she suddenly started crying.

“They drew some blood. It happened so quickly,” Craig Johnston, 36, told the Los Angeles Times at the time.

A 16-year-old man was hospitalized in 2017 after being attacked by a swarm of isopods Cirolana harfordi, a relative of E. chiltoni.

Initially unaware of what was happening, as he emerged from the water he saw that the crustaceans had ripped pieces of skin from his feet which would not stop bleeding and looked like “a war wound”, according to a BBC News report.

“They can be pretty nasty when they get going,” Richard Brusca, an invertebrate zoologist at the University of Arizona and former curator of crustaceans at the San Diego Natural History Museum, told the California-based publication. “They’re like mini sharks” that can attack you “like a pack of wolves,” but with a sting comparable to that of a mosquito, he added.

Hechinger explained that the beetles are actually needed for the ecosystem – because they mainly eat dead fish so that the water doesn’t smell like rotten fish.

“My recommendation is don’t freak out, just if it bothers you, go away,” he added.

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“My recommendation is don’t freak out, just if it bothers you, go away,” he added. Another type of woodlice is shown above

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-11181595/Like-small-piranhas-California-beachgoers-plagued-swarms-foot-biting-bugs-draw-blood.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 ‘Like little piranhas’: Beach-goers in California are plagued by swarms of foot-biting bugs that suck blood

Bradford Betz

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