Touching a Blister Beetle can leave its handler with a swollen, painful reminder that some insects are better objects for observation.
Blister Beetles are members of the family Melodiae. If squeezed, they eject a chemical toxin called cantharidin that is a skin irritant to humans. Tissue that comes into contact with this irritant swells into a painful blister. This substance's effectiveness at destroying skin tissue is proven by its use as an ingredient in some wart removal products. It is primarily used as a defense mechanism against predators, but the beetle will use it even when under a perceived threat.
This species of Blister Beetle has a black body and bright red legs. Its 'knee caps' and 'feet' are black. The head is slightly larger than the prothorax (shoulders), but the abdomen is the largest and longest part of the body. Segmented antennae are relatively short and ridged. Black wing coverings fold over delicate wings and look almost like armor plates.
Adult Blister Beetles can be found on apple trees and other similar plants. The larvae are parasites to solitary bees like the Augochlora Sweat Bee. Larvae jump onto a passing bee, stowaway to the bee's lair, and then feed on bee eggs and bee larvae inside. After the Blister Beetle pupates, it makes its way out of the lair.
Scientific Name: Lytta aenea
Size (Adult; Length): 9mm to 15mm (0.35in to 0.59in)
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Antennae: Beetles have a pair of antennae on the head used as sensors.
Head: The head is home to the insect's eyes, antennae, and mandibles (jaws).
Thorax: Holds the three pairs of legs as well as vital internal organs.
Elytron: One of two wing cases on a Beetle that protects its wings (plural: elytra).
Wings: Appendages used for flying and kept under the elytra until needed.
Abdomen: Houses organs related to circulation, reproduction, and excretion.
Legs: Beetles have three pairs of legs located at the thorax, numbering six legs in all.