There are 30 species of blister beetles in Wisconsin, but they are more commonly found in states farther west such as Kansas, Wyoming and Texas. She’s hoping for some snow this winter to draw tourists for sleigh rides, then a good planting season so they can grow their own hay and don’t have to risk buying from others. The properties of cantharidin are well-known, and this chemical irritant and its coleopteran source have a surprising history dating back thousands of years. There are 30 species of blister beetles in Wisconsin, but they are more commonly found in states farther west such as Kansas, Wyoming and Texas. University of Wisconsin ��� Madison Division of Extension Releases Blister Beetle Fact Sheet (Madison) University of Wisconsin ��� Madison Division of Extension releases a blister beetle fact sheet, which can be found here: A blister beetle that releases a toxin when crushed during harvest is blamed for the horses' deaths and for sickening another 100 horses. In addition to their medical significance, these insects have a long and interesting story with some surprising twists. Contact Chelsey Lewis at clewis@journalsentinel.com. Wienke, who has riding horses, had stopped by previously with his wife to set up a wagon ride for a group, then saw the ranch's plight on Facebook. However, this group is widely distributed across the lower 48 states, with nearly 30 species known from Wisconsin alone. Sign up for our Travel newsletter for ideas on things to do around Wisconsin and the Midwest delivered to your inbox. And since the couple spent most of their savings buying the bad hay, they’re now scrambling to figure out how to buy more to feed their 110 horses for the next six months, until they can hopefully harvest their own hay. The hay came from farms in South Dakota and Wyoming, she said. But don’t let their drab appearance fool you. They’ve heard beef cattle might be able to consume it in some way, but they don’t want what happened to them to happen to someone else. Liesch, who has been in his position for six years, said blister beetles produce cantharidin as a defense, and the chemical can cause irritation and blistering either on the skin or internally if it is ingested by a human or other animal. “She was the salt of the earth. They are known as ���Blister beetles��� because they secrete cantharidin, a poisonous chemical causing blistering of the skin and painful swelling. “To have them occur in hay or animal feed, that seems to be a very rare occurrence.”. Blister beetle poisoning is rare in equines, but can occur if the adult beetles happen to be in an alfalfa field feeding on blossoms at the time of harvest and are crushed by farm equipment. “I was beside myself, because I was like, what in the hell is going on?” Kanarowski-Peterson said. Margined Blister Beetle The BugLady thinks that the solid gray beetle and the gray beetle with-black elytra (wing covers) are the Margined Blister Beetle ( Epicauta ��� Samples were sent to PJ Liesch, an extension entomologist and director of the Insect Diagnostic Lab at UW-Madison. 0.2 mg per beetle) and moderate (ca. Note: Please understand that that insects do not adhere to man-drawn borders on a map as such they may be found beyond the general "reach" as ��� Kanarowski-Peterson, 51, called the loss devastating, not just because the horses were vital to her and her husband Lyle Peterson’s business, offering trail rides and sleigh and wagon rides, but also because the horses are like family. Blister beetles can have a wide arrange of hosts, with some of the most common being vegetable and ornamental crops. Editor's note: Kanarowski-Peterson told the Journal Sentinel on Jan. 19 that the ranch lost another horse on Jan. 13. Surprisingly, cantharidin was also historically deployed as an aphrodisiac—Spanish fly. In an unfortunate situation, blister beetles have recently been reported in connection with the deaths of over a dozen horses in ��� A blister beetle that releases a toxin when crushed during harvest is blamed for the horses' deaths and for sickening another 100 horses on the ranch. The online auction site she said she got the hay from did not reply to phone calls or emails from the Journal Sentinel. “I’m not sure how that’s going to affect our business long-term, because a lot of those people came to see those horses over and over and over again,” she said. Blister beetles swarm in alfalfa fields and are drawn MAUSTON, Wis. ��� Hay tainted by a toxic beetle is blamed for the deaths of 14 horses and illnesses to dozens of others on a Wisconsin ranch. 0.7 mg per beetle) levels of cantharidin, respectively. For example, Pliny the Elder knew of the toxic effects and mentioned blister beetles in his writings. Blister beetles have another noteworthy Wisconsin connection from the history books. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal. “The horse community sure is a tight-knit community. In addition, the ranch offers sleigh or wagon rides in the winter, horseback riding trips at Wildcat Mountain State Park in May, and fall activities, including a corn maze and a petting zoo. That’s not unusual for that time of year, she said, and “at first I didn’t think much of it.”. Enter your email address to subscribe to "What's Crawling in the Lab" and receive notifications of new posts by email. While Liesch has seen blister beetles in Wisconsin yards on occasion — usually in late spring or early summer — it’s a “fleeting phenomenon” for a few days, and he’s not aware of any other cases of beetles being found in hay in Wisconsin. She said she bought six semi-loads of grass and alfalfa hay from the auction site, which is based in South Dakota. As little as four (4) to six (6) grams of blister beetles can be deadly to an 1100 lb. Officials say summer flooding left the hay from the fields at Red Ridge Ranch Riding Stable in Mauston, Wisc., unstable. She described the situation as “heartbreaking” and said she feels helpless, since her insurance does not cover bugs, and the auction company has told her the blister beetles she found, which produce a toxic chemical that can kill horses, could not have come from its hay and must have come from somewhere else. Blister beetles are hypermetamorphic, going through several larval stages, the first of which is typically a mobile triungulin. in Mauston, Wisc., unstable. Everybody loved her,” Kanarowski-Peterson said. BLISTER BEETLE: Alfalfa producers should be aware that blister beetle infestations may become more prevalent late in the season or during periods of grasshopper abundance. Kanarowski-Peterson started a GoFundMe in December that has raised more than $24,000, and both friends and strangers have called and showed up with donations. Blister beetle, she says, is not something she's ever felt the need to watch for. “I thought, we’ve got a connection here, I can spare some hay,” Wienke said. It’s incredible how they help each other out,” Lyle Peterson said after saying goodbye to Harlan Wienke, a stranger from New Richmond who had driven more than two hours in an ice storm to bring the ranch 38 bales of hay. The hay sample went to the University of Wisconsin, which found blister beetles baled in the alfalfa hay. “By the time you realize they were sick, you were way behind, they were already dying,” she said, noting that 70 of her horses got sick since Labor Day. According to an article from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, the blister beetle is "is highly toxic to sheep and cattle, but primarily to horses." Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window), Submit an Insect Question or Digital Image, Hackberry Psyllids: Tiny, Jumping, Biting Insects, Busy beetles: lady beetles take to the air and our homes, Riding the Wind: Storms Transport Rare Moths to Midwest, Great Golden Digger Wasp: Another Asian Giant Hornet Look-Alike, Some Insects Don’t Understand Social Distancing, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Even that wasn’t unusual, though, given the size of her ranch. She sent the grain to a lab to be tested, and a local veterinarian took a liver sample from one of the dead horses to test. The blankets came from some of the 14 horses that have died at the ranch since August, from what owner Cindy Kanarowski-Peterson thinks was a poisonous beetle infestation in hay she bought from an online auction site. “Overall I would say that (blister beetles) are not uncommon if you know when and where to look for them," he said. DOWNLOAD THE APP: Get the latest news, sports and The couple don’t know what they’ll do with it. There are approximately 2,500 known species worldwide. Blister beetle contaminated hay is almost always the result of beetles being crushed prior to baling. The most common blister beetles, Epicauta pennsylvanica(De Geer) and E. maculata (Say), had low (ca. Now how do you replace that?”. more, an article from the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Your California Privacy Rights/Privacy Policy. To be specific, some of the most common plants that they eat and damage include eggplants, squash, peas, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, ��� On a dreary January day, nine horse blankets lined a fence at Red Ridge Ranch outside Mauston, about 20 miles northwest of Wisconsin Dells. Kanarowski-Peterson reached out to another veterinarian, Dr. Dave Kolb from Lodi Veterinary Care, for help. The blister beetle is usually found in alfalfa which has been harvested in certain areas of the country and during certain seasons of the growing year. That included Talley, a Clydesdale that died. Kanarowski-Peterson said she has contacted a few attorneys, but they’re waiting on more test results before they move forward. In an unfortunate situation, blister beetles have recently been reported in connection with the deaths of over a dozen horses in Mauston, Wisconsin. Host: Blister beetles have a wide host range including alfalfa, clover, soybean, ��� Dermal exposure has long been known to cause irritation and blistering—hence the common name of “blister beetles”. And she can't simply buy other horses to replace those she lost, including horses she had for a while like 30-year-old Breezy, who came out of retirement every now and then for pony or trail rides. In general, Liesch said, blister beetles are oblong, not particularly hard or crunchy, with somewhat softer exoskeletons, similar to fireflies. ���In the grand scheme of things, blister beetles are not uncommon in Wisconsin. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew and @TravelMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel. To schedule a ride or donate to the ranch, call (608) 847-2273 or see redridgeranch.com. The immature blister beetle grubs feed on the egg When he examined the first horse, he noticed its stomach lining was red and inflamed and that it had ruptured. If ingested, symptoms can be much more serious: severe irritation of the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, kidney and heart damage, and a cascade of other undesirable effects. Despite being winter, Wisconsin has recently been in the news because of insects—blister beetles—and their potentially deadly impacts on horses. It took weeks for the results to come in, and they showed nothing significant. A few of our Midwestern species are striped or brightly colored, but many common species are dark-colored, being mostly black, grey, or a dark metallic green. Blister beetles range from ��� Even if they can’t ride them, they want to see them.”. Ingestion of only a few grams of cantharidin can potentially be lethal to an adult horse. Blister beetles wield a potent defensive toxin—cantharidin. For now she and her husband continue to feed their horses their remaining grass hay and other feed provided by the kindness of friends and strangers. After Kolb told Kanarowski-Peterson it looked like blister beetle poisoning, she began picking through the alfalfa hay and found what looked like beetles. However, cantharidin might have harmed more than it helped. Red Ridge’s immediate concern is feeding their remaining 110 horses for the rest of the winter. Kanarowski-Peterson, who started Red Ridge in 1999 but has worked with horses her entire life, including as a barrel racer, had never heard of blister beetles before Kolb mentioned them. For now, the pile serves as evidence for a potential legal case. Blister beetle poisoning is rare in equines, but can occur if the adult beetles happen to be in an alfalfa field feeding on blossoms at the time of harvest and are crushed by farm equipment. Blister Beetles belong to the family Meloidae. We had sick horses every single day, or dead,” she said. Humans aren’t the only creatures affected by blister beetles and horses are especially sensitive. “You don’t red-flag that. While some of the sick horses are starting to put on weight again and the ranch hasn't lost one since Jan. 3, painful memories of those difficult months resurface every time Kanarowski-Peterson walks into her barn. Old medical reference books list a number of potential uses for cantharidin, ranging from the treatment of skin conditions to a supposed remedy for baldness. The ubiquitous Black Blister Beetle (Epicauta pensylvanica), which graces goldenrods in August, was featured in a BOTW about a year ago. Our subscribers make this reporting possible. I had a hard time coming to the barn. This usually happens when the swather goes through a swarm of beetles. We’re talking about a horse that a customer can ride — an inexperienced person that’s looking for a quiet ride.”. Blister beetles have an oily substance, cantharidin, in their body fluid that causes large blisters to form when a beetle is crushed. The blisters caused by exposure to blister beetles are usually not very serious and blisters will completely clear up in less than a week to 10 days. “It’s not something that’s a local problem,” he said. Wisconsin Beetles Beetles are found throughout the United States - reaching as far out as Hawaii, Alaska, and territories inbetween. Good Guys Of the approximately 40 families of beetles that have members that prey on or parasitize other insects, two families, the lady beetles and ground beetles, are particularly important in gardens, home ��� These horses did not have fluid in their stomachs, but food. Red Ridge Ranch, W4881 Highway 82, Mauston, is open year-round and offers guided trail rides and pony rides for all ages and abilities on their more than 250 acres of farmland in Juneau County. Cantharidin is used medically to remove warts and is collected for this ��� “We have had people stopping that I don’t even know, donating stuff – feed, hay, couple bales, grain, anything left over in their barn. The larvae are insectivorous, mainly attacking bees, though a few feed on grasshopper eggs. In the days before the little blue pill, Spanish fly was known for its ability to irritate the urethral lining to produce a “stimulating” effect. A pile of the bad hay, covered in a horse blanket like the ones that line the nearby fence, sat outside a shed that housed bales of the bad stuff. He took some samples to test for the toxin associated with blister beetles, cantharidin, but those came back negative. “We’re not just talking about a horse. Liesch confirmed at least one of the samples to be a blister beetle, although he couldn’t determine exactly which species since the body had been crushed. “I had a hard time getting out of bed. Kanarowski-Peterson said she could put anyone on the "gentle giant," from a 6-year-old to a grandmother. “The heart of our business, a bunch of the horses, are gone,” Kanarowski-Peterson said. The common blister beetles species of the Upper Midwest are oblong and typically range from ½-inch to ¾-inch long, although other species can vary in size. For the ranch owners, the loss of the horses is more than financial. In his 32 years of practicing veterinary medicine, Kolb had not heard of horses suffering from blister beetle poisoning in Wisconsin, but he said there is documentation of horses dying from it elsewhere. The potential for lethal consequences that blister beetles pose to And while she said she hates to be the example of the dangers of blister beetle poisoning, “the more people you can educate, the better.”. In fact, she can list a host of other respiratory problems she typically sees, from moldy hay, in particular. Another excellent study of Wisconsin beetle fauna; hope they publish it formally soon. horse. In one historical report, French Legionnaires in North Africa complained of priapism after feasting upon frogs that had happened to eat blister beetles (frogs seem to be unaffected by cantharidin). MAUSTON, Wis. (AP) ��� Hay tainted by a toxic beetle is blamed for the deaths of 14 horses and illnesses to dozens of others on a Wisconsin ranch. Hay tainted by a toxic beetle is blamed for the deaths of at least 13 horses and illnesses to dozens of others on a Wisconsin ranch. “It’s amazing how many people come back and ask for the same horse. Liesch said the beetles are midsize, about half an inch to an inch long, and have slender bodies with softer exoskeletons, similar to a firefly. That’s not unusual for horses, he said, since they do not have the ability to throw up, and their stomachs can rupture if there is an obstruction. Since they found the beetles and stopped feeding their horses the alfalfa hay, however, none have gotten sick. Blister beetles comprise a diverse family of insects (Family Meloidae), with over 3,000 species known from around the globe. If disturbed, blister beetles may secrete a bodily fluid called cantharidin, which is a chemical that can cause irritation, swelling and blistering when it contacts human skin. You don’t like it, but it happens,” she said, noting that she loses three or four horses every year, especially because she has some older horses since she gives them “forever homes.”. For example, blister beetle larvae are parasitic on soil-dwelling insects but the adult beetles feed on plants. Beetles of Wisconsin Showcase listing of Beetles found in the state of Wisconsin. While they were waiting for results, more horses died. A blister beetle, a bug that when crushed during harvest secrets a deadly toxin, is being blamed for the deaths of 14 of their beloved horses at Red Ridge. I didn’t want to come to the barn anymore. “That’s the only horse they trusted.". Kolb did not normally treat the ranch’s horses, but he performed necropsies (autopsies) on two of the dead horses. As little as four to six grams of blister beetles can be deadly to a 1,100-pound horse and "whole insects need not be present to be dangerous.". At first she thought it was something in their grain, so she stopped feeding the horses that. During recent weeks, a Wisconsin horse ranch reported losing 15 horses to blister beetle-infested hay that they had purchased from a Western hay producer. After the horse died, a veterinarian found a hole in its bowel, according to Kanarowski-Peterson. The horse was last fed the beetle-infected hay on Dec. 13, experienced colic then and again on Jan. 12. 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