Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Nearctic fauna revised in(1)
Explanation of Names
Origin obscure (2)
, though Blatchley (at one point) suggests the origin is Greek, "small animal" (3)
. The Oxford English Dictionary
--login may be required) suggests it may come from early medical literature--the term melloes
appearing in the writings of Paracelsus
--that perhaps from the Greek for the scarab beetle Melolontha
22 spp. in our area(4)
, >150 total, arranged into 16 subgenera(5)
Hind wings absent; elytra reduced and overlap at base.
Males smaller than females, with modified antennae:
Key to species, descriptions, and discussions in Pinto & Selander(1)
Primarily holarctic (mostly Palaearctic), with meager representation in more southern areas; throughout NA (to nw. Colombia; Hispaniola)(4)(5)
Larvae feed on eggs and other food in bees' nests(6)
In at least some species of Meloe, triungulins aggregate and use chemical signals to attract male bees to which they attach themselves. This allows transport (and transfer) to a female bee who carries them back to her nest (Saul-Gershenz & Millar 2006).
First-instar larvae climb to the top of a plant as a group, clump together in the shape of a female solitary ground bee, exude a scent imitating the female bee pheromone. When a male bee comes and tries to mate with the clump of larvae, some of these clamp onto his hairs and eventually get to female bees when he mates for real. Impregnated female bees fly off and build nests in burrows; triungulins move to the new nests and feed on honey and pollen stocked by the bee for her own young. --Jim McClarin's comment
Beetles emit an oily substance from leg joints when disturbed (thus the common name)(6)
In males of some Meloe mid-antennal segments are modified, and the c-shaped ‘kinks’ involving antennomeres V–VII are used to grasp female antennae during pre-mating displays (Pinto & Mayor 1986)
Bland R.G. (1986) Antennal and mouthpart sensilla of the blister beetle, Meloe campanicollis (Coleoptera: Meloidae). Great Lakes Entomologist, 19(4): 209–215.
Pinto J., Mayor A. (1986) Size, mating success and courtship pattern in the Meloidae (Coleoptera). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 79: 597–604.
Saul-Gershenz L.S., Millar J.G. (2006) Phoretic nest parasites use sexual deception to obtain transport to their host's nest. PNAS 103: 14039-14044 (Abstract