Short Winged Blister Beetle

Meloe angusticollis[i]

 oilbeetle_jenracine

Photo Credit: Jen Racine

 

Recently, a friend found this weird bug out in her backyard, she had no idea what is was. So she posted it online and hoped someone could identify it. Though I was able to help, I needed to use Google. Yeah, even I wasn’t sure what the hell this weird-ass thing was. Remember when in doubt, Google is your friend. Chances are you will find what you are looking for, albeit it may take some time, and this time it did. And I had to look at a bunch of pictures of beetles. Because there are a lot of species of beetles, over 350,000![ii]  And they make up 22% of known species on earth. OK, I didn’t have to look at that many pictures of bugs, more like a little over 300 commonly seen beetle species in Massachusetts. Still, that is a lot of beetles.

Short Winged Blister Beetles belong to a group of beetles called oil beetles,[iii] which in turn belong to a large diverse group of insects called blister beetles.[iv] All species produce a chemical called “cantharidin” which can cause blisters.[v] However, it is also used to remove warts![vi] Pretty odd combination of abilities possessed by this chemical. Also, they have softer bodies than most beetles, and they have an extra stage of metamorphosis.[vii] Adults are herbivorous, while the young are parasites to other insects – this species happens to be parasitic to honeybees.[viii]

This particular species is dark in color, often a shiny steel gray or blue.[ix] They are found in fields and other open grassy areas across the northeastern USA and southern Canada, including all of New England.[x] And yes, I have encountered them in the back yard quite often, even though I never bothered to look them up until last week. And I am sure others have found them too without realizing what they are, and then of course coming into contact with them and getting these weird blisters in which they had no idea where they came from. This kind of beetle will also play dead if disturbed, and that is when they produce the cantharidin to produce blisters.[xi] Though I have never gotten a rash from them, I would still recommend against touching them. One source recommends using a plastic plate to pick them up if you wish to inspect them.[xii]

So remember, if you see this guy in your backyard, best to leave him alone, unless of course you want a nasty rash

[i]  Author Unknown  “Meloe angusticollis” Wikipedia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meloe_angusticollis Wikipedia 09SEP2016

[ii] Author Unknown “Case Study: Why So Many Beetles” Understanding Evolution, UC Berkeley http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/side_O_0/beetles_01 09SEP2016

[iii] Author Unknown “Meloe” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meloe 09SEP2016

[iv] Author Unknown “Meloe” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meloe 09SEP2016

[v] Milne, Lorus and Margery National Audubon Society Field Guild to Insects & Spiders” 1980. Chanticleer Press New York, pg 587

[vi] Author Unknown “Blister Beetle” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blister_beetle 19SEP2016

[vii] Milne, Lorus and Margery National Audubon Society Field Guild to Insects & Spiders” 1980. Chanticleer Press New York, pg 587

[viii] Milne, Lorus and Margery National Audubon Society Field Guild to Insects & Spiders” 1980. Chanticleer Press New York, pg 587

[ix] Milne, Lorus and Margery National Audubon Society Field Guild to Insects & Spiders” 1980. Chanticleer Press New York, pg 589

[x] Milne, Lorus and Margery National Audubon Society Field Guild to Insects & Spiders” 1980. Chanticleer Press New York, pg 589

[xi] Milne, Lorus and Margery National Audubon Society Field Guild to Insects & Spiders” 1980. Chanticleer Press New York, pg 589

[xii] Spier, Dave “Blister Beetle” The Northeast Naturalist http://northeastnaturalist.blogspot.com/2012/03/blister-beetle.html 25MAR2012

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s