How do you know it's a blister beetle? I have always wondered. I nearly have heart failure when I see a grasshopper carcass in the hay, I don't know what I'd do if I saw any kind of actual beetle. But for future reference, how does one tell if it's a dangerous beetle or just your garden-variety one?
And yeah, where are you? I only feed alfalfa, year round.
I am northern NC and the hay came from Halls Hay. It is compressed alfalfa bales. Beautiful hay. The beetle fell out between two flakes. I tore the rest of it apart and did not find another one but still...
it is pretty obvious that is what it is, I think you would know if you saw one I bug-i.d'd it of course.
"Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
--- The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.
To avoid blister beetle, try to buy hay baled before the blister beetles come out or after they are gone for the season. In my area, they come out after Memorial day, swarm around, feed, and lay their eggs by August, and they are usually gone after Labor Day. You will read a lot about beetle free areas, and about buying hay that hasn't been run over with a conditioner, but honestly, unless you buy 35# bales from the Amish, it will ALL have been crimped with a conditioner and I really don't believe people who say they don't have beetles. I think even So. Cal. has beetles now, which leaves No. Cal. and Canada as sources w/o beetles (maybe ND and Montana).
Beetles are only active in the summer months, when they come out to swarm. If you buy hay put up before or after beetle season, you have the best chance of protecting yourself. I have started buying hay that is baled AFTER the first frost to make WAY SURE the bugs are dead. Alfalfa is a cool season grass and can make it past a few light frosts. Last cutting, in October around here, is usually super fine stemmed and just fine for my horses. This year I made a deal with a grower to buy an entire cutting out of one field so that he would put it up in small squares. Otherwise he puts it up in huge squares for cattle. Sometimes first cutting is kind of stemmy and weedy, and the horses waste a little too much, but I will buy it if I'm looking at running out before September.
I would find a grower who can intelligently tell you when his beetle season is and work from there.
Last edited by lexie1; Dec. 28, 2009 at 09:21 PM.
Reason: add to post
Doesn't it take like 100 beetles to kill an adult horse? I always assumed that it would be fairly easy to see if you had an "infestation" before feeding it?
I feed alfalfa all year round and I've never seen one.
What I remember learning years ago that the oils and 'juices' from just one beetle is enough to contaminate a whole bale and make a horse very, very ill or worse.
When I worked at the equine clinic there was a horse that came in with 'unrecognized' symptoms. We had just moved back from Florida where I was very acutely aware of the symptoms of Blister Beetle poisoning. I mentioned this to the vet but because we're in the northeast and don't have them here, he said that was very remotely possible. Well, turned out it *was* blister beetle poisoning. I'll never forget the smell of the DMSO the mare was getting ... it was nasty. Thankfully, she pulled through but it was pretty scary for awhile.
What about cubes or alfalfa forage, like the triple crown alfalfa chopped forage? Should people worry about that as well? I'm just thinking, it would probably be next to impossible to know since it's all compressed and chopped...
I have started buying hay that is baled AFTER the first frost to make WAY SURE the bugs are dead.
Dead bugs do damage too.
"Cantharidin is the poisonous substance in blister beetles. It is comparable to cyanide and strychnine in toxicity. Although horses are considered to be very susceptible, comparable doses can poison cattle or sheep. Very small amounts of cantharidin can cause colic in horses. The substance is very stable and remains toxic in dead beetles. Animals may be poisoned by ingesting beetles in cured hay. There is no sampling method that can detect toxic levels of blister beetles."
it's not the edge of the earth, but you can see it from here
Unfortunately the Lucerne stuff isn't cheap.
I second cubes or pellets, soaked. Cubes will still give you the stem length, pellets won't... but I've known several horses that survived more than a decade on pellets & beep (no hay at all) and nary a colic...