Spiracle (Breathing Organ) Oil or Blister Beetle, Meloe angusticollis, Coventry, CT
The blister beetles exude cantharidin, which is a blistering agent used to impress a female of their own species who then mates with them, whereupon most of the cantharidin is transfered to the female in the form of a sperm packet. The eggs the female subsequently lays are coated with cantharidin to protect them from being eaten before they hatch.
Cantharidin is used by humans to manufacture the notorious date rape drug, Spanish Fly…”
Spanish Fly is an aphrodisiac that you've probably heard of from frat house sex comedies of the 1980s. Supposedly it could be slipped into a drink to make ladies hot. It turns out it is not just a legend. This aphrodisiac does exist, but it only makes gentlemen (physically) hot. And it would also probably kill them.
The weirdest thing about spanish fly is that it actually exists. Even the name isn't entirely wrong, since it comes from a group of insects whose most well-known subspecies is called spanish flies. More generally they're called meloid beetles, or blister beetles. Wherever they are found they're used, occasionally, as aphrodisiacs. The key element to them is a chemical called cantharidin.
Cantharidin makes spanish fly metaphorically apt as an aphrodisiac, as well as practically possible. Cantharidin is why meloid beetles are also called blister beetles. It can blister skin, and is a harsh poison if ingested.
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Three individuals of Macroscopic Solutions, LLC captured the images in this database collaboratively.
Mark Smith M.S. Geoscientist
Daniel Saftner B.S. Geoscientist and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer
Annette Evans Ph.D. Student at the University of Connecticut