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. Kolb said the toxin leaves the body quickly after being ingested, and Kanarowski-Peterson said the horses he examined had been dead longer than 24 hours. 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 couple don’t know what they’ll do with it. Ingestion of only a few grams of cantharidin can potentially be lethal to an adult horse. Kolb did not normally treat the ranch’s horses, but he performed necropsies (autopsies) on two of the dead horses. 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. For now, the pile serves as evidence for a potential legal case. There are approximately 2,500 known species worldwide. She said she bought six semi-loads of grass and alfalfa hay from the auction site, which is based in South Dakota. “We’re not just talking about a horse. Blister beetle contaminated hay is almost always the result of beetles being crushed prior to baling. “I thought, we’ve got a connection here, I can spare some hay,” Wienke said. 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). “The heart of our business, a bunch of the horses, are gone,” Kanarowski-Peterson said. Because some customer favorites died, Kanarowski-Peterson is concerned some  people might not return for trail rides, hurting her business more in the future. But usually the stomachs will fill up with fluid first. 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 wield a potent defensive toxin—cantharidin. In fact, she can list a host of other respiratory problems she typically sees, from moldy hay, in particular. 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. When they realized they weren't going to have enough hay to feed their horses through the winter, Kanarowski-Peterson did what a lot of people do when they need to buy something: She went online. Blister beetles have an oily substance, cantharidin, in their body fluid that causes large blisters to form when a beetle is crushed. “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. 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. 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 beetles swarm in alfalfa fields and are drawn Females then use it to chemically protect their eggs. Host: Blister beetles have a wide host range including alfalfa, clover, soybean, ��� 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. “I had little kids that loved her and they came back constantly — even if they couldn’t ride her — to feed her,” she said. Surprisingly, cantharidin was also historically deployed as an aphrodisiac—Spanish fly. After the horse died, a veterinarian found a hole in its bowel, according to Kanarowski-Peterson. Displaying 1 to 8 of 4648 Blister Beetle Blamed for Death of Wisconsin Horses 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 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. 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. 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. Blister beetles are hypermetamorphic, going through several larval stages, the first of which is typically a mobile triungulin. Since they found the beetles and stopped feeding their horses the alfalfa hay, however, none have gotten sick. 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: These horses did not have fluid in their stomachs, but food. Kanarowski-Peterson said another woman gave her a check for $500 and started bawling. The immature blister beetle grubs feed on the egg 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 ��� 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." 0.7 mg per beetle) levels of cantharidin, respectively. “That’s the only horse they trusted.". Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal. The blister beetle (Epicauta) is highly toxic to sheep and cattle, but primarily to horses. ���In the grand scheme of things, blister beetles are not uncommon in Wisconsin. Another excellent study of Wisconsin beetle fauna; hope they publish it formally soon. 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 horse community sure is a tight-knit community. Editor's note: Kanarowski-Peterson told the Journal Sentinel on Jan. 19 that the ranch lost another horse on Jan. 13. 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. 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. Dermal exposure has long been known to cause irritation and blistering—hence the common name of “blister beetles”. Officials say summer flooding left the hay from the fields at Red Ridge Ranch Riding Stable in Mauston, Wisc., unstable. This usually happens when the swather goes through a swarm of beetles. The properties of cantharidin are well-known, and this chemical irritant and its coleopteran source have a surprising history dating back thousands of years. The larvae are insectivorous, mainly attacking bees, though a few feed on grasshopper eggs. They are known as ���Blister beetles��� because they secrete cantharidin, a poisonous chemical causing blistering of the skin and painful swelling. In general, Liesch said, blister beetles are oblong, not particularly hard or crunchy, with somewhat softer exoskeletons, similar to fireflies. However, this group is widely distributed across the lower 48 states, with nearly 30 species known from Wisconsin alone. In the Unites States, we’ve got approximately 400 species, with the bulk of the diversity centered in the dry southwestern part of the country. 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. That’s not unusual for that time of year, she said, and “at first I didn’t think much of it.”. Cantharidin is used medically to remove warts and is collected for this ��� Sign up for our Travel newsletter for ideas on things to do around Wisconsin and the Midwest delivered to your inbox. 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. 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. Our subscribers make this reporting possible. “She was the salt of the earth. 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. We’re talking about a horse that a customer can ride — an inexperienced person that’s looking for a quiet ride.”. For the ranch owners, the loss of the horses is more than financial. That included Talley, a Clydesdale that died. His secret?—a hair tonic containing cologne, oils of English lavender and rosemary, and a cantharidin-containing tincture made from blister beetles. Blister beetles can have a wide arrange of hosts, with some of the most common being vegetable and ornamental crops. 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. 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. In adult blister beetles, this compound is produced by males, which provide it to females during courtship. As little as four (4) to six (6) grams of blister beetles can be deadly to an 1100 lb. The hay sample went to the University of Wisconsin, which found blister beetles baled in the alfalfa hay. “I had a hard time getting out of bed. “She just did her job. Kanarowski-Peterson reached out to another veterinarian, Dr. Dave Kolb from Lodi Veterinary Care, for help. 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. 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. I had a hard time coming to the barn. 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. 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. “I was beside myself, because I was like, what in the hell is going on?” Kanarowski-Peterson said. 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. horse. To schedule a ride or donate to the ranch, call (608) 847-2273 or see redridgeranch.com. There's a lot of good people,” she said. Even if they can’t ride them, they want to see them.”. 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. Unlike the stereotypical “crunch” of most other beetles—think of accidentally stepping on a May/June beetle—blister beetles have softer bodies and are similar to fireflies in this regard. It took weeks for the results to come in, and they showed nothing significant. “You don’t red-flag that. 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 ��� Beetles of Wisconsin Showcase listing of Beetles found in the state of Wisconsin. In an unfortunate situation, blister beetles have recently been reported in connection with the deaths of over a dozen horses in ��� Even that wasn’t unusual, though, given the size of her ranch. Follow her on Twitter at @chelseylew and @TravelMJS and Facebook at Journal Sentinel Travel. 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. “To have them occur in hay or animal feed, that seems to be a very rare occurrence.”. After Kolb told Kanarowski-Peterson it looked like blister beetle poisoning, she began picking through the alfalfa hay and found what looked like beetles. Now how do you replace that?”. 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. While they were waiting for results, more horses died. 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