Blister Beetle

Meloe sp. on a trail near Pinkham Notch.

These beetles have fascinating life cycle. The youngest larval stage forms a clump and gives off pheromones that attract male bees. When a bee tries to mate with the clump, the tiny larvae grab on to the bee. If they (and the bee) get lucky, they then transfer to a female bee. When she lays her eggs, they slip into her burrow, where they gorge on honey (and sometimes the bee larvae). They eventually emerge as adults like the one you see here. The adults don't seem to eat; they just mate and lay eggs.

Do not handle them; they secrete a sticky oil that causes rashes. The yellow spot at the right edge of the photo is some of that stuff.

Some species of beetle are immune to the oil, in fact they steal it and give it to their females, which allows them to protect their own eggs.

Oil from related beetles also has a long history as an alleged aphrodisiac and as an effective poison.

Summer 2012

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