Meloidae

Blister beetles are 10-15 mm long, elongate, and soft-bodied. They are black, brown, or blue, but sometimes orange or marked with red or yellow. The head is bent downwards, and there is a narrow neck. Adults are phytophagous, and larvae are parasitic ofwild bees and grasshopper eggs in soil. The body fluid of the adults contains a substance, cantharidin, which causes human skin to blister. When disturbed, blister beetles fill their trachea with air, close their spiracles, and build up body fluid pressure until breaks occur in the cuticle, usually at the joints. The defensive body fluid is released, but this type of reflex bleeding does not harm the insect. Handling live or dead adults can result in skin irritation and blisters.

Striped blister beetle, Epicauta vittata Adults are 9-15 mm long. They are black and marked with yellow; the head has two black spots on the top. The pronotum has two stripes, and the elytra have two or three black stripes. Adults feed on a variety of plants. Larvae feed on the egg masses of grasshoppers in the soil. This species is often associated with alfalfa. When it is harvested, adult blister beetles are crushed in the hay during bailing, causing the release ofcantharidin into the hay. When horses eat the contaminated hay, they may develop severe colic and sometimes die.

Spanish fly, Lytta vulnerata Adults are about 20 mm long; the head and thorax are shiny, and mostly orange. Elytra, abdomen, and legs are black. Larvae often occur in wild bee nests. Adults are attracted to lights at night. The European species, L. vesicatoria, is the source of commercial cantharidin, which is used to treat urogenital diseases.

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