Saturday, April 4, 2009
Beetle Lust (R rated)
There's a lot of hanky panky going on in the desert right now. Some of the exhibitionists in the crowd are Desert blister beetles, also known among entomologists as Lytta magister. These large beetles are stunning in their shiny black armor accented by a bright orange head and legs. About mid-day, when things are getting really hot, the beetles are getting even hotter! Males and females march tail to tail across trails or can be seen perched on a favorite shrub where they feed while they breed.
A biochemical called cantharadin is released by blister beetles as a defense against predators, causing painful blistering on exposed skin or in the mouth of animals that try to eat them. Interestingly, the same chemical has also been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac in cultures all over the world. One type of blister beetle in particular, the metallic green Spanish fly, or Lytta vesicatoria, has been harvested, dried and crushed for use as an herbal rendition of Viagra. For this purpose, the dried beetle powder is added to drinks, thereby causing swelling you-know-where as it passes through in urine. This results in the medical condition of priapism which is also known as a really big and sustained hard-on. However, this is not a recommended treatment to try on your own, since overuse can cause painful and embarassing problems.