Don’t Touch That Beetle: Oil Beetle (Meloe sp.)

meloe-sp-oil-beetle-1During a recent work session at the Royal Oak Arboretum one of the Boy Scouts found a large purplish-black beetle. It was part of the Blister Beetle group called an Oil Beetle (Meloe sp.). They exude an yellowish oily substance from the base of their legs that forms blisters if it contacts human skin. They placed the beetle in a large plastic cup and the cup’s bottom was spotted with oily liquid when I first saw it.

This genus consists of six species in the Northeastern United States. I am not sure which species this one is. I am happy to know the genus of an insect.

Meloe sp.

Female Oil Beetle

The females are about twice the size of the males. This female was 40mm [1.5 inches] long and seemed sluggish. They overwinter as eggs and perhaps she had laid her eggs and was reaching the end of her life. This is a flightless, parasitic beetle. The eggs hatch in the late spring and the larva are described as alligator-like. Climbing onto a flower they wait for one of the solitary bees to land and quickly latch on to its back. The Oil Beetle larva rides the bee back to its nest and feeds on the developing bee larva and possibly some of the pollen in the nest. It then pupates and emerges in the fall to mate and lay its eggs.

It is fun to find a new insect in an area that I visit often. You never know what you are going to see when you just get out and look.
Copyright 2016 by Donald Drife

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Leopard Slug in Michigan

 Limax maximus

Leopard Slug

Giant Slug or Leopard Slug (Limax maximus) is a European species now found in North America and Australia. It is in the family Limacidae which is comprised of the keel back slugs. Keel back slugs are longer and thinner than the round back slugs that make up the family Arionidae. Keel back slugs also possess an internal shell under their mantle shield. The mantle shield is the section of the slug closest to their “head.” On the slug’s right side is their respiratory opening.

 Limax maximus

Slug anatomy

 Limax maximus

Front of Leopard Slug

I found Leopard Slugs at the Royal Oak Arboretum behind the Senior Center in Royal Oak, Michigan. They come out when it is getting dark and are active throughout the night. They are 10-15cm (4-6 inches) long. Eating mainly fungus, dead vegetation, and other slugs they are not normally garden pests unless the population is large. I was surprised at how fast they moved. I timed one crossing a 1.5m (6 foot) path in 15 seconds.

 Limax maximus

Leopard Slug at full stretch

For more information on this slug and other gastropods check out Robert Nordsieck’s great website The Living World of Molluscs. The Leopard Slugs are here.

Copyright 2014 by Donald Drife

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