Insect Identification
Insect Identification

American Oil Beetle - (Meloe americanus)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 11/12/2014

Look, but don't touch the seemingly simple and ordinary American Oil Beetle.

American Oil Beetles are a type of Blister beetle. When threatened or put under pressure, they emit a chemical called cantharidin that creates blisters and irritates human skin.

American Oil Beetles have a soft, yet stout abdomen with a shell covering that looks like a series of overlapping plates. The surface is slightly bumpy, not slick and smooth. Antennae are visible on the head. The insect can appear as a dull black or in some cases a shiny black or dark blue.

These particular beetles do not fly and are slow movers. The larvae are devious. They sit on flowers, waiting for a bee to land. They latch onto the bee for a free ride back to the hive. Once there, the beetle larvae then feed on the bee larvae. Adults can be found walking around plants they eat, such as buttercups. They are active all year, but more so in the spring, when they are more likely to be seen.

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Category: Beetle
Common name: American Oil Beetle
Scientific Name: Meloe americanus

  Kingdom: Animalia
   Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
     Order: Coleoptera
      Family: Meloidae
       Genus: Meloe
        Species: americanus

Adult Size (Length): 7mm to 17mm (0.28in to 0.67in)

Identifying Colors: black; blue

Additional Descriptors: black, rough, bumpy, harmful

North American Reach (Though Not Limited To*): Alabama; Arkansas; Connecticut; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Illinois; Indiana; Kansas; Louisiana; Maryland; Michigan; Mississippi; Nebraska; New Jersey; New York; North Carolina; Ohio; Oklahoma; Pennsylvania; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Virginia; West Virginia; Wisconsin

* Keep in mind that insect reach is not governed by lines on a map and therefore may appear in areas/regions/states beyond those listed above.