Blister beetle

Blister beetle
Blister beetles
Lytta aenea [1]
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Suborder: Polyphaga
Infraorder: Cucujiformia
Superfamily: Tenebrionoidea
Family: Meloidae
Gyllenhal, 1810


Blister beetles are beetles (Coleoptera) of the family Meloidae, so called for their defensive secretion of a blistering agent, cantharidin. There are approximately 7,500 known species worldwide. Many are conspicuous and some aposematically colored, announcing their toxicity to would-be predators.



Cantharidin is a poisonous chemical that causes blistering of the skin. Cantharidin is used medically to remove warts[2] and is collected for this purpose from species of the genera Mylabris and Lytta, especially Lytta vesicatoria, better known as "Spanish fly".

Blister beetles are hypermetamorphic, going through several larval stages, the first of which is typically a mobile triungulin. The larvae are insectivorous, mainly attacking bees, though a few feed on grasshopper eggs; while sometimes considered parasitoids, it appears that in general, the meloid larva consumes the immature host along with its provisions, and can often survive on the provisions alone, thus they are not obligatory parasitoids but rather food parasites that are facultatively parasitoid, or simply predatory. The adults sometimes feed on flowers and leaves of plants of such diverse families like Amaranthaceae, Asteraceae, Fabaceae, and Solanaceae.


The blister beetle genus Epicauta is highly toxic to horses. A few beetles consumed in a single feeding of alfalfa hay may be lethal[3]. Poisonings have also been reported after use of "Spanish fly"-type folk medicines, and after handling blister beetle individuals. The toxic chemical is cantharidin.


Subfamily Eleticinae

Tribe Derideini

  • Anthicoxenus
  • Deridea
  • Iselma
  • Iselmeletica

Tribe Morphozonitini

  • Ceriselma
  • Morphozonitis
  • Steniselma

Tribe Eleticini

  • Eletica

Tribe Spasticini

  • Eospasta
  • Protomeloe
  • Spastica
  • Xenospasta

Subfamily Meloinae

Black Blister Beetle, Epicauta pennsylvanica (Meloinae: Epicautini)
Cysteodemus armatus near Amboy Crater, Mojave Desert, California. Yellow color is flower pollen.

Tribe Cerocomini

  • Anisarthrocera
  • Cerocoma
  • Diaphorocera
  • Rhampholyssa
  • Rhampholyssodes

Tribe Epicautini

  • Denierella
  • Epicauta
  • Linsleya
  • Psalydolytta

Tribe Eupomphini

  • Cordylospasta
  • Cysteodemus
  • Eupompha
  • Megetra
  • Phodaga
  • Pleropasta
  • Tegrodera
Blister beetles like this Lytta vesicatoria (Meloinae: Lyttini) can be safely handled, provided the animal is not startled, and allowed to move around freely. Otherwise, painful poisonings may occur.
Meloe violaceus (Meloinae: Meloini). Note drop of dark orange defensive fluid on thorax.
Mylabris quadripunctata (Meloinae: Mylabrini)

Tribe Lyttini

  • Acrolytta
  • Afrolytta
  • Alosimus
  • Berberomeloe
  • Cabalia
  • Dictyolytta
  • Eolydus
  • Epispasta
  • Lagorina
  • Lydomorphus
  • Lydulus
  • Lydus
  • Lytta
  • Lyttolydulus
  • Lyttonyx
  • Megalytta
  • Muzimes
  • Oenas
  • Parameloe
  • Paroenas
  • Physomeloe
  • Prionotolytta
  • Prolytta
  • Pseudosybaris
  • Sybaris
  • Teratolytta
  • Tetraolytta
  • Trichomeloe

Tribe Meloini

  • Cyaneolytta
  • Lyttomeloe
  • Meloe
  • Spastomeloe
  • Spastonyx

Tribe Mylabrini

  • Actenodia
  • Ceroctis
  • Croscherichia
  • Hycleus
  • Lydoceras
  • Mimesthes
  • Mylabris
  • Paractenodia
  • Pseudabris
  • Semenovilia
  • Xanthabris

Tribe Pyrotini

  • Bokermannia
  • Brasiliota
  • Denierota
  • Glaphyrolytta
  • Lyttamorpha
  • Picnoseus
  • Pseudopyrota
  • Pyrota
  • Wagneronota

Genera incertae sedis

  • Australytta
  • Calydus
  • Gynapteryx
  • Oreomeloe
  • Pseudomeloe

Subfamily Nemognathinae

Horia sp. from Bannerghatta (Bangalore, India)
Sitaris muralis (Nemognathinae: Sitarini)

Tribe Horiini

  • Cissites
  • Horia
  • Synhoria

Tribe Nemognathini

  • Cochliophorus
  • Euzonitis
  • Gnathium
  • Gnathonemula
  • Leptopalpus
  • Megatrachelus
  • Nemognatha
  • Palaestra
  • Palaestrida
  • Pseudozonitis
  • Rhyphonemognatha
  • Stenodera
  • Zonitis
  • Zonitodema
  • Zonitolytta
  • Zonitomorpha
  • Zonitoschema

Tribe Sitarini

  • Allendeselazaria
  • Apalus
  • Ctenopus
  • Glasunovia
  • Nyadatus
  • Sitaris
  • Sitarobrachys
  • Stenoria

Genera incertae sedis

  • Hornia
  • Onyctenus
  • Sitaromorpha
  • Tricrania

Subfamily Tetraonycinae

Tribe Tetraonycini

  • Meloetyphlus
  • Opiomeloe
  • Tetraonyx

See also


  1. ^ Cirrus Digital Blister Beetle Lytta aenea
  2. ^ Bhattacharjee, Pradip; Brodell, Robert T. (2003). "Cantharidin". In Robert T. Brodell and Sandra Marchese Johnson, eds. Warts: Diagnosis and Management—an Evidence-Based Approach. London: Martin Dunitz. pp. 151–160. ISBN 1-84184-240-0. 
  3. ^ University of Arizona VDL Blister Beetle Poisoning in Horses

External links

* Beetle mania as 'extinct' insect found on Scots isle
* Ever so Strange: Blister Beetles 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Blister beetle — Blister Blis ter, n. [OE.; akin to OD. bluyster, fr. the same root as blast, bladder, blow. See {Blow} to eject wind.] 1. A vesicle of the skin, containing watery matter or serum, whether occasioned by a burn or other injury, or by a vesicatory;… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • blister beetle — n any of various beetles (as the Spanish fly) that are used medicinally dried and powdered to raise blisters on the skin broadly any of numerous soft bodied beetles (family Meloidae) * * * any beetle of the family Meloidae; their dried bodies… …   Medical dictionary

  • blister beetle — n. any of a family (Meloidae) of soft bodied beetles, some of which are harmful to plants: the dried and ground bodies of the Spanish fly and certain other species yield a substance that is used medically as a vesicant …   English World dictionary

  • blister beetle — any of various beetles of the family Meloidae, many of which produce a secretion capable of blistering the skin. [1810 20] * * * Any of approximately 2,000 species of beetles (family Meloidae) that secrete an irritating substance, cantharidin,… …   Universalium

  • Blister beetle dermatitis — is a cutaneous condition that occurs after contact with any of several types of beetles, including those from the Meloidae and Oedemeridae families.[1]:449 Blister beetles secrete an irritant called cantharidin, a vesicant that can get onto… …   Wikipedia

  • blister beetle — noun beetle that produces a secretion that blisters the skin • Syn: ↑meloid • Hypernyms: ↑beetle • Hyponyms: ↑oil beetle, ↑Spanish fly • Member Holonyms: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • blister beetle — /ˈblɪstə bitl/ (say blistuh beetl) noun any of various beetles of the family Meloidae, many of which produce a secretion capable of blistering the skin, as the Spanish fly. Also, blister fly …  

  • blister beetle — noun Date: 1816 a beetle (as the Spanish fly) used medicinally dried and powdered to raise blisters on the skin; broadly any of a family (Meloidae) of soft bodied beetles whose blood contains cantharidin …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • blister beetle — noun a beetle that, when it is alarmed, secretes a substance that causes blisters. [Lytta and other genera: several species.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • blister beetle — blis′ter bee tle n. ent any of various beetles of the family Meloidae, many of which produce a secretion capable of blistering the skin • Etymology: 1810–20 …   From formal English to slang

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