An uptick in the population of a previously-unknown variety of sand fleas has forced organizers to cancel Monday’s New Year’s Ever fireworks displays on Blacktip Island. (Blacktip Times file photo)
Blacktip Island’s New Year’s Eve fireworks display, scheduled for Monday night, has been canceled due to an unprecedented sand flea infestation on the small Caribbean island, event organizers said.
“The sand fleas and no-see-ums are so bad right now, you can’t go outside anytime after dark,” Rosie Blenny said. “Go to any island resort and all you’ll see are welted-up tourists. The clinic’s out of any kind of cortisone.
“Usually the fleas are bad at dusk, then go away once it’s full dark, but these suckers are different,” Blenny said. “We tried setting up the mortars last night and the crew was eaten alive in five minutes. There’s no way we can set up fireworks in these conditions, much less set them off.”
Experts say the pests are a genetically-modified strain of sand fleas.
“Tests we’ve run on collected subjects show a slightly-altered DNA,” island public health chief Herring Frye said. “Whether that alteration is natural or human-induces has yet to be determined.
“At first we thought the mutation was due to cyanide gas from all the decaying sargassum seaweed washed up in the beaches,” Frye said. “Sand fleas love that sargassum, and we’ve been up to our knees in it lately. But new data suggests the change is more likely from some sort of genetics experiment gone wrong.”
Island entomologists downplayed that possibility.
“We run genetics experiments on insects and crustaceans all the time, sure,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip biology chair Goby Graysby. “But our labs are secure and nothing, I mean nothing, escapes them. Lately, anyway. And James Conlee’s not allowed within 100 yards of the TU-B campus.”
Other island residents suspected a more sinister source.
“A few homeowners have complained for years about the noise from the fireworks,” resident Lucille Ray said. “Not to mention any names, we’ve all overheard someone with the initials Cyrus DeCamp talking about how nice it’d be if something made it impossible to set off New Year’s fireworks.
“He has the know-how, And he’s just crazy enough to do it,” Ray said. “People’ve called him the New Year’s Grinch before now. My bet is he kicked his game up a notch.”
DeCamp could not be reached for comment, all phone calls to him were unanswered and reporters’ visits to his house were met with a hail of thrown rocks.
In place of a fireworks show, island residents and guests are making alternate plans.
“The Sand Spit’s organized a midnight flashlight war inside the bar,” bartender Cori Anders said. “And down at the Ballyhoo, it sounds like people are going to just drink until they see fireworks in their heads.”