Thursday, August 11, 2011

Margined Blister Beetle

The next guest on our list of garden enemies is the margined blister beetle.
We've had this pest in our flower gardens before.   For years, they regularly ate our clematis virginiana down to sticks.  We finally dug up the clematis and hadn't seen the bug in a couple of years.   Then this year it showed up on some tomatoes and eggplant - eating the leaves to nubs.    The next day I noticed that the potato greens had been devoured.    We found dozens of these bugs in the straw around the plants.   They lay their eggs in the soil, so we have to wait for them to come up to get them. 

Rumor has it that these guys eat grasshopper eggs - which is great, except they will eat a plant to nothing, too.   Big problem. 

An even bigger problem is the fact that their bodies produce a toxin so powerful it will kill a horse and blister human skin.   Some varieties of blister bug are more powerful than others.

Truth told, I squashed dozens of these bare handed before I knew what they were.   No blisters.   I double checked the photo ID and there's no doubt what they are.   Either Eric and I got really lucky, or these just aren't as toxic as some of the others.

Handle with gloves!   But get them off your plants. 

These beetles leave a characteristic poop trail - messy wet black droppings.  That's how you'll notice them.   Look behind the leaves for the bug.  Careful picking off of these guys seems to control them.    Though we picked dozens off the potatoes the first day, there were only a few the second day and I haven't seen any since.  We're fighting them on the tomatoes now - more hiding places.    

Just drop the beetles in a bowl of hot soapy water to kill them.
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