Home / Blister Beetles (Meloidae) / Oil Beetles (Meloe)

Oil Beetles (Meloe)

The oil beetles belong to the family of blister beetles. They are known for secreting venomous oils and utilizing bees to raise their larva.

Oil Beetle

List of Species Belonging to this Genus

  • Buttercup Oil Beetle (Meloe americanus)
  • Short-winged Blister Beetle (Meloe angusticollis)
  • Short-necked Oil Beetle (Meloe brevicollis)
  • Black Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus)
  • Variegated Oil Beetle (Meloe variegatus)
  • Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus)
  • Black Meloe (Meloe niger)
  • Rugged Oil Beetle (Meloe rugosus)
  • Oil Beetle (Meloe laevis)
  • Meloe afer
  • Meloe ajax
  • Meloe aleuticus
  • Meloe barbarus
  • Meloe bitoricollis
  • Meloe californicus
  • Meloe campanicollis
  • Meloe carbonaceus
  • Meloe chinensis
  • Meloe dianella
  • Meloe distincticornis
  • Meloe dugesi
  • Meloe exiguus
  • Meloe franciscanus
  • Meloe gracilicornis
  • Meloe himalayensis
  • Meloe impressus
  • Meloe kashmirensis
  • Meloe kaszabi
  • Meloe lateantennatus
  • Meloe nebulosus
  • Meloe occultus
  • Meloe orientalis
  • Meloe paropacus
  • Meloe poggii
  • Meloe quadricollis
  • Meloe shapovalovi
  • Meloe strigulosus
  • Meloe tropicus
  • Meloe quadricollis
  • Meloe vandykei
  • Meloe xuhaoi

Physical Description and Identification

Adult 

Size: 0.28-1.2 in (0.7-3 cm)

Color: Most are varying shades of black, with some showing violet-blue coloration

Other Characteristic Features: If disturbed, these beetles release oily droplets of their inner fluids called hemolymph from their joints. As they are flightless, their elytra are also shorter than most beetles.

Meloe

Larva

The larvae go through an interesting development cycle during this stage. The beetle larva attaches itself to a male bee in its first instar. When this male bee mates with a female bee, the larva transfers itself to the female. It will then feed on the nourishment meant for the bee larva, sometimes consuming the larva itself.

Oil Beetle Larvae

Pupa

Metamorphosis of the larva into a pupa takes place inside the beehive.

Egg

Females lay around 1000 eggs, coinciding their hatching period to match with those of the bee’s eggs.

Quick Facts

Lifespan3-5 months
DistributionNorth America and Europe
HabitatAround certain plants like buttercups and grasses
PredatorsNot recorded
Seasons activeYear-round, particularly in Spring
HostsBeehives
Diet of adultsLeaves from plants such as beets, buttercups, Jimson weed, mustard greens, and potatoes
Oil Beetle Image

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

The oils secreted by these beetles contain a toxic chemical called cantharidin. This can cause swelling and blisters and can be fatal if ingested.

Oil Beetle Picture

Did You Know

  • Famed Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus was the first to create this genus in 1758.

Image Source: coleoptera.org.uk, americaninsects.net, ringwoodnaturalhistorysociety.co.uk, theswanseabay.co.uk, bugguide.net

The oil beetles belong to the family of blister beetles. They are known for secreting venomous oils and utilizing bees to raise their larva.

Oil Beetle

List of Species Belonging to this Genus

  • Buttercup Oil Beetle (Meloe americanus)
  • Short-winged Blister Beetle (Meloe angusticollis)
  • Short-necked Oil Beetle (Meloe brevicollis)
  • Black Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus)
  • Variegated Oil Beetle (Meloe variegatus)
  • Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus)
  • Black Meloe (Meloe niger)
  • Rugged Oil Beetle (Meloe rugosus)
  • Oil Beetle (Meloe laevis)
  • Meloe afer
  • Meloe ajax
  • Meloe aleuticus
  • Meloe barbarus
  • Meloe bitoricollis
  • Meloe californicus
  • Meloe campanicollis
  • Meloe carbonaceus
  • Meloe chinensis
  • Meloe dianella
  • Meloe distincticornis
  • Meloe dugesi
  • Meloe exiguus
  • Meloe franciscanus
  • Meloe gracilicornis
  • Meloe himalayensis
  • Meloe impressus
  • Meloe kashmirensis
  • Meloe kaszabi
  • Meloe lateantennatus
  • Meloe nebulosus
  • Meloe occultus
  • Meloe orientalis
  • Meloe paropacus
  • Meloe poggii
  • Meloe quadricollis
  • Meloe shapovalovi
  • Meloe strigulosus
  • Meloe tropicus
  • Meloe quadricollis
  • Meloe vandykei
  • Meloe xuhaoi

Physical Description and Identification

Adult 

Size: 0.28-1.2 in (0.7-3 cm)

Color: Most are varying shades of black, with some showing violet-blue coloration

Other Characteristic Features: If disturbed, these beetles release oily droplets of their inner fluids called hemolymph from their joints. As they are flightless, their elytra are also shorter than most beetles.

Meloe

Larva

The larvae go through an interesting development cycle during this stage. The beetle larva attaches itself to a male bee in its first instar. When this male bee mates with a female bee, the larva transfers itself to the female. It will then feed on the nourishment meant for the bee larva, sometimes consuming the larva itself.

Oil Beetle Larvae

Pupa

Metamorphosis of the larva into a pupa takes place inside the beehive.

Egg

Females lay around 1000 eggs, coinciding their hatching period to match with those of the bee’s eggs.

Quick Facts

Lifespan3-5 months
DistributionNorth America and Europe
HabitatAround certain plants like buttercups and grasses
PredatorsNot recorded
Seasons activeYear-round, particularly in Spring
HostsBeehives
Diet of adultsLeaves from plants such as beets, buttercups, Jimson weed, mustard greens, and potatoes
Oil Beetle Image

Identifying the Damage Caused by Them

The oils secreted by these beetles contain a toxic chemical called cantharidin. This can cause swelling and blisters and can be fatal if ingested.

Oil Beetle Picture

Did You Know

  • Famed Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus was the first to create this genus in 1758.

Image Source: coleoptera.org.uk, americaninsects.net, ringwoodnaturalhistorysociety.co.uk, theswanseabay.co.uk, bugguide.net

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