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Photo#37966
short-winged blister beetle - Meloe campanicollis - male

short-winged blister beetle - Meloe campanicollis - Male
Glassboro, Gloucester County, New Jersey, USA
November 23, 2005
Size: 1 3/8 inches
I was surprised to see this beetle alive (though sluggish) since it is below freezing in this area. I don't recall seeing one like it before, If anyone knows what it might be, please let me know.
I just found out that this dude is a short-winged blister beetle... it exudes a nasty toxin that causes blisters and can kill livestock if eaten. The toxic chemical is called cantharidin - which is a dangerous substance with the same toxicity as the most violent poisons like strychnine.
Geez, what a creature! Good thing he was in a stupor from the cold.

Images of this individual: tag all
short-winged blister beetle - Meloe campanicollis - male short-winged blister beetle - Meloe campanicollis - male short-winged blister beetle - Meloe campanicollis - male

Meloe campanicollis Pinto & Selander
John Pinto det.

Moved from Oil Beetles.

Male Meloe sp.
Those crimps in his antennae are used somehow to aid the mating process. It appeared to me that by rubbing the female's antennae with these crooks, the much larger female was made motionless so the male could back up along her abdomen and attempt copulation. I suspect there is more than a tactile sensation involved -- that chemicals are somehow used to stun her, hopefully into a blissful state.

Here's a male using them on a female:

 
Thanks, Jim!
Those antenna are really distinctive. It's interesting how poisonous creatures manage to avoid being killed by their own (or their mate's) toxins.
I've added some more close-up images of him. Thanks for sharing the details. I didn't know there was such a dangerous creature living in my yard!

Sue

 
I've handled them
but I've never gotten blisters. I've had one leak a fair amount of oil-consitency yellow fluid (they're also called Oil Beetles) in the palm of my hand where the skin is naturally tougher, but I washed it off within a couple minutes and nothing happened. I would definitely keep them off of thin-skinned areas and off of your sandwich!! ;-)

btw, canthardin is the active ingredient in Spanish Fly, a date-rape drug of the street for many decades -- maybe 100 years or more. It's also a much-sought commodity by a couple other families of beetles, the males of which find a blister beetle, lick off the canthardin and incorporate it into their sperm packet to tranfer to the female. It then presumably protects the eggs from being eaten. Among Pyro*chroidae, a male that has not consumed enough (or any) canthardin is rejected as a suitor.

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