16th June 1947

Guernsey was invaded by Colorado beetles

The Colorado beetle can quickly destroy a tomato crop, so when they started turning up on the Channel Islands beaches in 1947, everyone was out to get them.

The following day, it was front-page news in the Daily Herald. “Hundreds of dead Colorado beetles have been washed ashore at Guernsey after falling exhausted into the sea on a 35-mile flight from France. Since May 1 seven Colorado beetles have been found on Channel boats.”

While many of those found on the boats may have fallen there, like the ones that had washed up, some were being discovered in produce exports.

Several had already been found in potato crops arriving at the mainland from Jersey. From the Coventry Evening Telegraph of 31 May, we learn that “landings [of potatoes from Jersey] ceased at noon owing to the finding of Colorado beetles in the island”. Authorities couldn’t risk the infestation spreading to mainland Britain – particularly not with the nation still subject to rationing in the early post-war years.

An ongoing problem

The infestation certainly wasn’t short-lived. On 3 July, the Dundee Evening Telegraph reported that 64 beetles had been found on Sark by an expedition sent from Guernsey.

As late as 23 August, the Cheltenham Chronicle reported,

the Colorado beetle… had been found in some numbers as near as the Channel Islands and I am informed that in the island of Jersey this pest was particularly troublesome, while on the beaches of Guernsey numbers of dead ones have been picked up by the children. These dead beetles have evidently migrated and been forced down on the sea.

Colorado beetle

The Colorado beetle is around 1cm long and 3mm wide. It is dark yellow, with 10 black stripes running along its back. It first became a problem in the 1850s when it earned itself a reputation for destroying potato crops in the American mid-west. Within 25 years it had covered almost the whole of the United States.

Two years later, it was first seen in Europe, likely having been brought over in vegetable imports. It underwent a population explosion in Europe in the years immediately following the second world war.

Colorado Beetle

 

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Other events that occured in June

Cricketer Charles Grieve died in Shropshire 1st
St Johns undertook its first Guernsey rescue 2nd
Bailiff John Guille died in Plymouth 3rd
GUNS writer Joseph John Gillingham was deported 4th
First arrests were made at Guernsey Airport 5th
Jethou was put on the market 6th
The king and queen celebrated Guernsey’s liberation 7th
Occupying forces confiscated Guernsey’s radios 8th
Guernsey Railway company ceased operations 9th
Guernsey welcomed its first steam ship 10th
Laura Kennington kicks off Channel Islands triathlon 11th
Dame Sibyl became a dame again 12th
Guernsey voted to legalise local abortions 13th
Victor Hugo’s house is opened to the public 14th
The Channel Islands were demilitarised 15th
Guernsey was invaded by Colorado beetles 16th
States Telephone Department was established 17th
Pollet guest house fire claimed its third victim 18th
Aurigny founder Derrick Bailey died 19th
Guernsey joined the Football Association 20th
Guernsey’s school children were evacuated 21st
Guernsey celebrated Queen Victoria’s jubilee 22nd
Princess Elizabeth opened Guernsey’s hospital 23rd
Guernsey chose England over France 24th
First meeting of Guernsey’s Controlling Committee 25th
Guernsey bought Fort Grey from the War Office 26th
Guernsey coffee trader William Le Lacheur died 27th
G-JOEY completes his last flight 28th
Guernsey suffered its first and only air raid
The Star was published for the first time 29th
Two deserters were shot after landing on Guernsey 30th