Entomologist Dr. Art Evans and WCVE producer Steve Clark discuss one of the perils of conducting field work during the summer monsoons in Arizona – blister beetles.
Dr. Evans, On Labor Day weekend I was working in a flowerbed at my Richmond home when I felt a quick, searing pain on the side of my knee. I figured I'd cut myself on a dried flower stalk, but there was no mark on my leg. However, the next morning there was a vivid slash of red and a line of watery blisters on my knee that felt like a burn. My first through was that I had shingles! At work, one of my co-workers mentioned your program about blister beetles in Arizona. I'd heard that program too, but couldn't imagine that a little bug was the cause such a painful welt. So I did some research.
That evening I went home and checked the plants in my garden. There on a Asclepias seed pod was a cluster of fiery red and black beetles with triangular "necks." I had never seen them in my yard before. The color alone was enough to let anything know they should be left alone!
Now my plan is to wear gloves, carefully snip off a portion of the plant and the bugs, and seal them in a plastic bag to dispose of them. I'm sure there are other clusters I have not yet found, so the population of blister beetles in Virginia is not in danger. Or, would you like me to save them for you? Just joking! JW
Judith, My apologies for this late reply! I think that the red and black "beetles" on your Asclepias are actually large milkweed bugs, Oncopletus fasciatus. They are harmless. What may have stung you is a saddleback caterpillar, Acharia stimulea. They have stinging spines that really burn!
Cheers, ART EVANS
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