Subject: What is this thing!?
Geographic location of the bug: 29 Palms, CA
Time: 10:03 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Saw several of these critters crossing the dirt path as I was walking my dog. Took a couple shots and had on on the tip of my walking stick, hunched up with it’s butt angled down like it was stinging, and the front legs up looking poised for combat. Couldn’t get a shot of it like that since i was holding the stick and dog and camera and didn’t want to let the dog go in case they were stinging bugs…I at first thought they were velvet ants but nope…can’t find anything that looks like it online. they were about 1.5 to 2 inches in length…when i stopped to take pictures they all altered their path and came at me…what are they??
How you want your letter signed: thanks, John Roush
This is a Master Blister Beetle, and though it does not sting, it does possess aposomatic or warning colors along with many Blister Beetles in the family Meloidae. According to BugGuide: “Pressing, rubbing, or squashing blister beetles may cause them to exude hemolymph which contains the blistering compound cantharidin. Ingestion of blister beetles can be fatal. Eating blister beetles with hay may kill livestock. Cantharidin is commercially known as Spanish Fly.” We get several images of Master Blister Beetles from southern California and Arizona each April. Just last week Daniel went to Joshua Tree National Park and he hoped to encounter some Blister Beetles, but alas, he returned without a single sighting.