For the past few weeks, residents in the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have been worried about supernatural forces visiting them in their homes at night, leaving strange scratches on household stones. Thankfully, science has found a more of-this-world explanation.
After consistently waking up to unexplained white or grey marks on household stonework, residents in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh feared supernatural beings were creating havoc in their homes, according to Hindustan Times .
The unexplained scratches have been found on household mortar and pestle (sil and batta) and grinding stones (chakki). These specific stone choices helped scientists to uncover the real culprits behind the scratches – beetles. As these stones often have remnants of food, they have been attracting the beetles.
In some parts of India, there is a superstition that it is bad luck to sweep the floor at night as it can cause poverty. Thus, hungry insects are attracted to crumbs left during the night.
The scratch marks have been explained by the acidic beetle excretion. Madhya Pradesh-based entomologist Dr KK Nema told Hindustan Times , “The caustic excretion of such beetle species is most likely causing whitish abrasive marks on the stone surfaces which looks like scratch marks.”
Bombardier beetles , believed to be related to the beetle culprits in this situation, are known to defend themselves via shooting boiling hot acidic liquid at their attackers.
Bombardier beetle, India ( Wikimedia Commons )
There are many beetle subspecies in the area that are known to excrete these caustic substances. Although another entomologist, Dr Sandeep Sharma, has stated that it is not known whether these beetles can also scratch or eat into stone surfaces.
It is lucky that the real culprits of the mysterious scratches has been discovered and people can sleep well at night again. Reports have also shown that in recent years some women in certain areas of India have been accused of witchcraft and then attacked.