Identifying blister beetles

From the UT Crops News blog

Author: Sandy Steckel, Extension Assistant

Occasionally, you catch a blister beetle in a sweep net sample in Tennessee soybeans. These large, showy adult beetles may also feed in clusters and defoliate the plants. Defoliation of soybeans in an area a big as a pickup truck is not a concern, but if it occurs over a large area, such as the size of a barn, treatment is warranted.

Blister beetles are members of the insect family Meloidae. This family includes over 300 North American species and more than 2500 species worldwide. Blister beetles get their name because when disturbed, they secrete a defensive toxin called cantharidin from glands at their leg joints, which may cause blisters or even oozing lesions upon contact with skin. This defense mechanism is referred to as “reflex bleeding”. So please, do not handle these insects! Also, cantharidin is highly toxic when ingested and irritates the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts of animals and may lead to death, especially in horses. Therefore, blister beetles are a concern to hay producers throughout Tennessee.

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Drought creates different insect problems

By Katie Pratt

LEXINGTON, Ky., (July 6, 2012) – Hot, dry weather could have some insects feeding in greater-than-normal numbers on crops like alfalfa, tobacco and some vegetables.

“Alfalfa, with its long tap root, will stay greener and more succulent during a drought than pasture grasses or field crops,” said Lee Townsend, extension entomologist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “That makes alfalfa attractive to most any insect that can use it, even if the bug normally doesn’t eat alfalfa. Also, irrigated tobacco and vegetables will be very attractive to insects like grasshoppers and stink bugs under these dry conditions.”

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