Amid the raging pandemic and black and white mushroom outbreaks, a new health threat has emerged. In the last few weeks Local residents in Kakkanad In Ernakulam, Kerala, insects from the bladder beetle family have suffered distress. Here’s everything we know so far about the insect that is cause for concern.
1. What are blister beetles?
Bladder beetles, sometimes called acid flies, belong to the Meloidae beetle family, which secrete poisonous cantharidin – an odorless, colorless fatty substance. There are over 7,500 species of bladder beetles on earth and the insects show aggressive behavior and move towards light sources at night.
2. Why are bladder beetles harmful?
Cantharidin is classified as an extremely dangerous substance and can cause severe damage to the lining of the gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. It can also cause permanent kidney damage if consumed.
The concentration of cantharidin varies depending on the type, size, and sex of the bladder beetle. Male bladder beetles have higher levels of cantharidin in their bodies than female ones.
3. What do bladder beetles do to the human body?
The health condition caused by the toxin is called paederus dermatitis or bladder beetle dermatitis which, under certain conditions, can even burn human skin. Cantharidin causes blisters and itchiness on the skin. It has the potential to cause serious damage to human skin if left unattended.
4. Where do bladder beetles occur?
The insects are often found in buildings near wooded areas and plantations where fallen leaves have been left to decay. Thick bushes and grass growth after the monsoons attract the beetles, which later mate and lay eggs. Insects also prefer wooden roofs of the building, especially in old houses.
5. What do bladder beetles look like?
They have moderately long antennae and legs, while color and size vary depending on the species. Acid flies, which are common in Kerala, are about 8 mm high and 1.2 to 2 mm wide. The beetles have long, cylindrical, soft bodies with heads wider than the pronotum – the plate-like structure that covers part of their rib cage.
#Flower of #Okra is eaten by #blisterbeetle pic.twitter.com/GYoQ3U3I9Z
– agriculture @ guide (@ agriculturegui1) August 18, 2020
6. Why the threat now?
The beetles like to breed on the superficial soil layer, where the leaves rot during the rainy season, especially in June and July.
7. What can be done to prevent bladder beetles?
Since bladder beetles are aggressive in behavior and attracted to light, it is recommended that windows and doors be closed when the sun goes down. If the insect is spotted near you, cell phones are risky to use in an enclosed area after all lights are dimmed as they could fly towards the active phone display and land on the user.
8. How is the acid fly attack treated?
Clinical diagnosis is done to find out the cause of the bladder. In some patients, topical steroids may be required, while in other cases oral antibiotics are prescribed along with creams.
If the beetle touches a person’s body, the reports suggest that it shouldn’t kill them or hit them in any way. The best thing to do is to try to shake it off your body and wash the affected area immediately with soap and water. If there is contact in or around the eye (s), the person should wash the eyes and face several times with water and seek medical advice.
9. What else do we know about cantharidin?
In countries like the USA, sour flies are a constant source of trouble among farmers because cattle and horses are very sensitive to their cantharidin secretion. During the breeding season, the beetles are caught in hay and bushes to feed the animals. Cantharidin remains dead or alive in the insect’s body and contaminates the hay that is later consumed by the animals. While internal consumption is fatal, external exposure damages body tissues.
10. What is the solution?
Identifying breeding sites is important in order to control the insect’s population.