A male blister beetle (Meloe impressus) preforming a balancing act while munching away on some grass.
These are an annual favourite of mine, showing themselves like clockwork every Thanksgiving weekend. I've written extensive posts on their fascinating and complex life cycle in the past, but I haven't touched on their historical and current uses by humans.
Male blister beetles synthesize a chemical called cantharidin which they use as defense. It causes burns and blisters, hence their name, and is quite poisonous.
Cantharidin was used as early as the 1500's as a sort of archaic Viagra, as it was known to cause increased arousal and prolonged erections in small doses. Preparations had to be very precise, as even small doses could poison and kill a human, and so the substance was banned in Europe in the 1600's. This didn't stop wealthy upperclassmen throughout France from obtaining black market "love potions", and even aphrodisiac sweets laced with the compound, which were linked to a slew of deaths.
Recently, cantharidin has shown promising anti-cancer properties, and has successfully killed and stopped the spread of several types of cancer including lung, breast and pancreatic cancer in cell cultures and mice.
Pretty neat to think that this little salad muncher may hold a future cure for cancer! 🌱
#entomology #insects #insectphotography #bugs #bugsnotdrugs #bugsaredrugs #beetles #blisterbeetle #meloe #coleoptera #taxonomy #history #nature #cancer #medicine #macro