Content Highlight – Spanish fly (Lytta vesicatoria)

Our new Content Highlight is about beautiful, but deadly beetle. Did you know that in the past powder from Spanish fly had been used by women to abort pregnancy?

Spanish fly is a 2 cm long metallic green beetle of Meloidae family (Blister Beetles). It can be found primarily in warm climates in Europe and Asia. This beetle feeds on leaves of ash, privet and others deciduous trees. Spanish fly has a very complicated development, going through several larval stages which parasitize on solitary bees.

Blister Beetles and their larvae from BHL

The male of Spanish fly produces liquid which contains a strong poison cantharidin. Cantharidin has a significant aphrodisiac effect, which is why it was used during the Middle Ages as an ingredient in various love potions. Since antiquity, powder from these beetles has been used by various poisoners.

Lytta vesicatoria by Stefanie Hamm from EOL

The poison produced by the Spanish fly causes festering blisters on skin contact, and contact with the eyes can even cause blindness. A deadly dose is only 30 milligrams. Ingestion causes painful erection in men, bloody diarrhea and intestinal problems. There have even been cases of damage to the heart, kidneys or nervous system.

Results for Lytta vesicatoria on Europeana

Be aware of these poisonous creatures, see Poisonous Nature on BLE.

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