Who knew these little flower bugs could be so deadly?? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 07-20-2013, 05:43 PM Thread Starter
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Who knew these little flower bugs could be so deadly??

This is a picture I took of the beetle. (sorry if it is really big.)


Here is some information on these Black Blister Beetles.
Blister Beetle adults feed on leaves in the tops of a plant but are especially attracted to flowers where they feed on nectar and pollen.
Blister beetles produce cantharidin, a poisonous substance comparable to cyanide and strychnine in toxicity. The substance, stored in the insects' blood, is very stable and remains toxic in dead beetles.
Animals may be poisoned by ingesting beetles while grazing or eating harvested silage.
Cantharidin can also cause severe skin inflammation and blisters.
Taken internally, as little as 10 milligrams can be fatal in humans.

Here is a link to more information than what I gave.
Black Blister Beetle - Epicauta pennsylvanica

I have seen these in our garden, just hanging around on our flowers, not causing us or the flowers any harm. But we were very interested i what they were because they were on almost all of our flowers.
I search black garden bugs and found these.
We thought they were harmless because they weren't hurting anyone or anything.
But once we read about them we were pretty surprised.
I thought I might share it with you, because it said it may be deadly to animals and humans. And because I thought that was pretty interesting.

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post #2 of 11 Old 07-20-2013, 06:17 PM
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They are a common pest in alfalfa. Deadly even dead and dried out.
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post #3 of 11 Old 07-20-2013, 07:29 PM Thread Starter
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Alfalfa, really???
We used to grow alfalfa but I never saw them then. But that was in a different town with a different climate and such - so maybe that was why.
But I had no idea alfalfa was a popular for those. Hmmm, have to watch that.

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post #4 of 11 Old 07-20-2013, 07:49 PM
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Oh yeah! Google " alfalfa blister beetles". Farmers even certify their alfalfa " blister beetle free".
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post #5 of 11 Old 07-20-2013, 10:38 PM
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It only takes 1-2 of those suckers to take down a horse, learned about it at the race track. Not something to mess around with.. like mentioned above, even if they are dead and dried out they can still be deadly
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post #6 of 11 Old 07-20-2013, 11:27 PM
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About a month ago I discovered some of the weeds around our place were full of gray spotted blister beetles!

I usually pull up a handful of a particular weed for my chickens and horses as a treat. I've done that for years now, no problems. Well, I had a few chickens mysteriously die and then I discovered the gray spotted beetles when I pulled up a handful of weeds. I actually looked them up in one of my horse magazines (Equus I think) because I remember reading an article on blister beetles and the bugs looked familiar. Yup, blister beetles. I think that must have been what killed my chickens.

I had no idea we even had blister beetles, nor that the weeds I had been feeding for years were called "kochia" and are actually sometimes used for grazing. I think they call kochia "poor man's alfalfa." So the weeds themselves aren't bad. In the magazine article, the lady was letting her horses graze on kochia and they got blister beetle poisoning. She was in New Mexico and I am in Arizona. Same spotted blister beetles, same weed. Small world.

I haven't been feeding kochia to the horses since, although I haven't seen the beetles in about a month and resumed feeding it to my chickens. If there are no beetles it should be safe.

I feed alfalfa hay and I pray I never have blister beetles in it. I am pretty much at the mercy of whoever farms and bales the hay. The hay always goes through at least one middle man (usually a feed store) and I never talk to the grower(s) directly. I pray they are able to control and prevent blister beetles in the hay.


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post #7 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 12:26 AM
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do they do that with insecticides? we feed alfalfa, and the guys who throw out the flakes don't take time to look and see if there is a dead beetle there or not. I wonder why this doesn't happen more often.
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post #8 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 01:28 AM
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If it's being cut before bloom, it should be safe. The beetles feed on the flowers and come in swarms. So a field could be " clean" except a couple of bales where a swarm was caught.

Like I said, as long as it's cut before full bloom, it's safe.
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post #9 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 07:45 AM
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If feeding alfalfa were my only option, I would call my local Co-op or the nearest Ag University and ask about the safety of feeding it.

To-date, first cut alfalfa in some areas is still safe to feed because the Beetles aren't active. At least that's been the rule of thumb for the last several years around here.

This is a University of Kentucky link. While the details specifically apply to Kenutcky, there is some good overall information regarding hay and horse owners.

Blister Beetles in Alfalfa | University of Kentucky Entomology

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post #10 of 11 Old 07-21-2013, 07:54 AM
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Scary... Any ideas if they would live in Ireland?
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