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Off the Trail: Oct. 25, 2018

October 25, 2018 GMT

A little more than a week ago, I wandered down a sandy path in search of late season insects.

It was cold and overcast, leaving most creatures huddled away conserving energy — all except for this scurrying short-winged blister beetle, which was rambling around at my feet.

These beetles are part of the genus Meloe (oil beetles), which make up 22 species in North America according to Bugguide.net.

This particular species likely is Meloe impresses but a few other species look very similar and might overlap ranges.

My giant “Beetles of Eastern North America” book says they are ground dwellers that don’t fly, and they tend to feed on plants in the Ranunculus (buttercup) genus.

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Fortunately for me, I did a quick INaturalist identification in the field and saw the name “blister beetle,” which informed me not to handle it at all. If these beetles are under stress or are compressed, they release a thick yellow liquid that can cause blisters for humans. I suspect this also is a good deterrent for larger potential predators such as birds and amphibians.

The larva form of this species also is a parasite for bees.

They will climb up to a flower or leaf and release a pheromone that attracts male bees,which will then carry them off.

Eventually, the beetle larva will make their way to a bee nest and will steal honey and pollen.