Master Blister Beetle

Flying desert insect, resembles ant
Location: Mojave Desert, near the mountains
April 22, 2011 10:43 pm
A friend and I found swarms of this red ant-like insect with wings near a mountain range in the Mojave Desert, during spring. The bugs are about 1 to 1.5 inches long, and they were non-hostile. We have no idea what kind it is, but we would like to know.
As a side note, most of them were mating.
Signature: Aethryix

Master Blister Beetle

Dear Aethryix,
The appearance of large numbers of Master Blister Beetles,
Lytta magister, is a common occurrence in the Mojave and Colorado Deserts of the arid southwest each spring, and we hope you enjoyed the sighting.  Like other members of the Blister Beetle family, the Master Blister Beetle should be handled with care, or even better, not handled at all, because they are able to secrete a compound known as cantharidin that can cause blistering of the skin.  Though Blister Beetles are found in many parts of the world and throughout much of North America, the deserts of the arid southwest have an especially diverse population and there are many unusual looking species.  We are sad you did not submit any images of mating Master Blister Beetles, though there is no shortage of such images in our archives including this example from earlier this year.  Adult Master Blister Beetles feed on vegetation and we would expect the rain pattern from this past winter would have provided for a lush plant growth in the desert which should in turn support a robust population of insects that feed on vegetation, including Blister Beetles.  We needed to check the extent of the Colorado Desert online to provide a state for this posting, and we learned on the California Fish and Game website that the Colorado Desert is entirely in California while the Mojave Desert extends to some neighboring states.

Master Blister Beetle

7 thoughts on “Master Blister Beetle”

  1. I saw close to 30 of these Master Blister Beetles today in the Colorado Desert in the Mule Mountains mating and flying and seemingly trying to attack me as I ran from them. They were frenzied and aggressive.

  2. We live in north Phoenix and currently have an infestation of these beetles – hundreds and hundreds of them. Many are mating or have died. They are feeding on our brittlebushes during the day. We have called pest control to help us get rid of them.


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