Thursday, June 8, 2017

Soldier Beetles, Not Blister Beetles

A Lubbock County grower came to my office this morning with a bottle that held 20 or so beetles he collected from the edge of a field. His concern was that they were blister beetles, and I was pleased to be able to say that they were soldier beetles. However, given the high numbers he described in the field, soldier beetles must be very abundant this year.

Photo credits: Ed Bynum and Pat Porter

There is some resemblance, but these beetles are different enough to be separated on sight. One problem though is that he showed me a web page that incorrectly identified soldier beetles as blister beetles; the internet strikes again. Texas growers can always send us a photo of an insect if they want an identification.

Soldier beetles, insect Family Cantharidae, are predacious on other insects as both adults and larvae. Blister beetle larvae, insect Family Meloidae, are predacious on grasshopper eggs and the larvae of wild bees. When disturbed, blister beetles exude hemolymph (the insect version of blood) that contains cantharadin, a potent blistering agent. The University of Florida has a good publication on blister beetles, and there is a section near the end that covers the medical aspects.