Subject: Darkling beetle?
Location: Silver spring, MD
March 8, 2017 8:01 pm
We found this one ob March 1st, a weirdly warm winter day here in MD and the closest thing to resemble it in our guide was a Darkling beetle. Is that what it was? It was very sluggish, we thought it was dead at first. My 6 year old wanted to pick it up but I didn’t know if it was safe. I kinda wish I had let her, just to get a more contrasting background.
This is not a Darkling Beetle. It is a Blister Beetle, a member of a family that gets its common name because family members are able to secrete a compound, cantharidin, that is known to cause blistering in human skin. The infamous aphrodesiac known as Spanish Fly is actually made of the ground bodies of a Spanish Blister Beetle. Your individual is an Oil Beetle in the genus Meloe and we believe it is a male because the fifth segment of the antennae appear to be modified for sexual interaction with the female. Oil Beetles are found in many parts of the world.
Phew – I’m glad I didn’t let her pick it up! Thanks so much for letting us know; she loves bugs but is also sensitive enough that if any of them ever hurt her, she may fear them all. It is really odd that a chemical that can cause blistering could also be an aphrodisiac – maybe blistering your inhibitions? I loved the different textures of black color on this little bug.