What a surprise we got Thursday morning. While pondering the effects of blister beetles, my thoughts were suddenly put on halt when a large swarm of ‘bugs’ descended on a tree right in front of me.

What a surprise we got Thursday morning. While pondering the effects of blister beetles, my thoughts were suddenly put on halt when a large swarm of ‘bugs’ descended on a tree right in front of me.
My only thought was, ‘I hope they aren’t blister bugs’. After a few minutes the sound they were making grew louder and the swarming became very deliberate. Taking a picture with my camera, I was overjoyed to see it was a swam of honeybees. They clung to the tree limb with scouts flying in different directions looking for their new home. Unfortunately, garden work was calling and I never saw the bees leave.
This was exciting to me since the bees in our bee tree disappeared three years ago and our bee population dropped dramatically. Everything we are doing in the garden is to make our garden area more habitat friendly for bees. The yard areas we cut are covered in cover and the flowers I plant are filled with pollen and nectar.
I hope the bees will make their new home in a nearby tree.
Friday morning brought the second surprise. Mike and I couldn’t work outside in the rain, but the tunnel house needed to be worked in to get the soil ready for fall crops. It has been so hot the rain was a great relief. We managed to get some tomatoes and peppers in the ground, cleaned and shelfed the pots and trays, and even started a few trays of greens for early fall eating.
Although it was cooler while we worked, we have found we don’t tire out as fast if we take a break every hour or so. During one of these breaks, the rain was light. We were enjoying the cool and rain when a rainbow began to form over the west side of the sky. It slowly stretched across the entire sky and formed a second one, slightly fainter than the first. It stayed visible for about ten minutes. How blessed we were.
Over the years, I’ve tried to accept that blister bugs have a real purpose. It doesn’t even have to be a noble purpose. Just a purpose that allows me to feel less hostile toward them. I know there are over 400 species of blister beetles in the US.  In southwest Missouri, there are four common forms; ashgray, solid black, margined (gray and black), and striped which is brownish gray with yellow stripes.
I know that a large blister beetle population comes the season after a large grasshopper population. I know they lay their eggs in the soil. I have learned the larva attaches itself to grasshopper egg cases and remains there until it pupates the following summer. Perhaps that is the blister beetle’s only saving grace.
That one single saving grace must be balanced against the dark side of the adult beetle.
It’s called ‘blister beetle’ because it has a secretion called cantharidin in their bodies that is released when the beetle is startled. If a person accidently mashes a beetle on their skin it forms a large painful blister. The blister remains for several days and the whelp from it can remain for a week. Horses have been killed from eating hay containing their dried bodies.
Thanks to the rain this year, there seems to be a lower population, but this is mid-July and the first beetles have hit my tomato plants. A few years ago, they striped my tomato, beans, hosta, pepper, okra, celery, and potato plants in a matter of one week.
I tried running them out by banging pots and pans. I dusted them with flour early in the morning. I dusted with Diatomaceous Earth, sprayed with soap and Neem oil to no avail. Finally, I prayed for them to just leave me a few undamaged plants.
That year we were hit with ashgray, then black, and finally the striped blister beetles. Nothing stopped them.
I’ve found a few this season. That feeling of hostility comes over me. I snipe off their heads every time I see one. I believe that feeling of hostility is greater now that I know the larva form parasitize ground bees.

Linda Simmons writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.