What you Need to Know About Blister Beetles

What you Need to Know About Blister Beetles

When ingested, blister beetles can be deadly to horses. The beetles range from 1 to 2.5 centimeters and usually are grey in color, however they sometimes are yellow with black stripes.

The chemical these beetles produce is cantharidin. Blister beetles get their name from the reaction humans get when the chemical comes in contact with them: blisters. When horses come in contact with these blister however, the combination can be deadly.

Blister beetles feed on alfalfa blossoms and crops, the same crops used to feed horses and cattle. Farmers are encouraged to check their hay prior to harvesting for the presence of blister beetles.

Here are some helpful steps you should follow in order to avoid your horse coming on contact with a blister beetle:

  • Use first-cutting hay to feed your horse(s)
  • Harvest later cuttings of hay while alfalfa is still in the vegetative state
  • Sweep sites during your second, third and fourth cuttings

If you suspect your horse has been in contact with a blister beetle, call your local veterinarian immediately.

Symptoms include:

  • Colic
  • Anorexia
  • Diarrhea or soft stool
  • Kidney damage
  • Blisters on the mouth
  • Increased heart rate
  • Damage to urinary tract
  • Salvation
  • Mild depression

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