Monday, 2 July 2012

Two Cantharids

Beetle, Cantharis rustica.  Hayes Common, 9 June 2012.
Beetle, Cantharis rustica.  Hayes Common, 9 June 2012.
Here are two Cantharid beetles I photographed recently.

The Cantharidae are known as Soldier Beetles, or sometimes Sailor Beetles, because their red and black markings used to be reminiscent of military uniforms.  But, of course, these days uniforms tend to be designed NOT to stand out against the background. 

Their overall hairiness is not apparent until you get really close.

Cantharis decipiens.  Hayes Common, 9 June 2012.
Cantharis decipiens.  Hayes Common, 9 June 2012.
This smaller species is more in line with a leafy environment.

Their colourful appearance is a warning that they taste bad.  But strangely, they are not the source of cantharidin, the blistering agent that was the active ingredient in Spanish Fly, a substance once used as an aphrodisiac.  (Don't try it.  It's dangerous.  Its effect was to irritate sensitive membranes.)   That came from a Blister Beetle, Lytta vesicatoria, that was once placed as a Cantharis species but now is not. 

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