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Oil Beetle (Meloe spp)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Oil Beetle

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Image Credit: Tim from Muskoka, ON
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An Oil Beetle may seem like an ordinary black garden bug, but its secret weapon can blister human skin and burn insect exoskeletons.

Updated: 01/04/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Oil Beetles are a type of Blister Beetle. This type of beetle can secrete a caustic chemical called cantharidin from its abdomen. The toxicity of this chemical is high enough to irritate human skin, causing redness, irritation, and the formation of painful blisters. It is typically used whenever the beetle feels threatened or mishandled. Because of this, Oil Beetles should not be picked up or handled.

It is completely black, with a matte sheen and an exposed abdomen. Wing coverings may be short and dimpled. Like other Blister Beetles, it is fond of flowers and may drink nectar as well as plant juices. It can be found on blossoms, tree trunks or stems, and in grass.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Burning icon
Flying insect icon
Shiny insect icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

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

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Meloe spp
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 6mm to 16mm (0.23" to 0.62")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black
Descriptors: flying; blisters; shiny; soft

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 6mm (0.2in) and 16mm (0.6in)
Lo: 6mm
Md: 11mm
Hi: 16mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Oil Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Oil Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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