The Dreaded Spotted Blister Beetle
You might have already guessed that blister beetles are named for the blisters that form if you get so much as a tiny drop of the fluid they secrete when they are injured or crushed on your skin. These common garden pests are insects you need to watch out for, as they can cause serious injury to humans as well as animals if ingested or your skin comes in contact with their blister-causing secretion. Blister beetles pose a serious threat to you or your animal’s health, so knowing if you have them and how to get rid of them is essential for anyone with so much as a grassy backyard.
The toxic secretion released by the blister beetle gets its toxic part from the blistering agent contained in it called catharidin, which is, interestingly enough, also used to treat lesions caused by the pox virus. Catharidin is able to destroy tissue so well that it is also used in products designed to remove warts. This toxin poses a particular threat to animals that may come in contact with it. Livestock are especially at risk. The toxin catharidin is highly toxic when swallowed. If an animal swallows a blister beetle, as little as four to six grams of the insect can prove lethal. What’s worse is that these beetles pose a threat whether they are alive or dead. They will often infest hay, making them a more common problem with horses. Even if a dead blister beetle accidentally makes it into hay that has been dried and baled, the toxin will remain active and dangerous long after the beetle dies. If a human ingests a blister beetle, the toxin will cause serious damage to the gastrointestinal lining and urinary tract. Parents especially need to watch out for young children when blister beetles are present, particularly because many young children will put almost anything in their mouths.
The blister beetle doesn’t only endanger humans and animals. These pests also cause severe damage to plants, both in the garden and on farms. They eat a large variety of hay crops, flowers, leaf crops, and plant blossoms. It is very important to catch and properly identify this insect pest in order to prevent them from damaging crops and harming livestock. And possibly even a young child or two…
Have you ever seen a blister beetle? Have you ever seen the effects of its toxic secretion on people or animals?