Blister Beetles wreaking havoc for North Dakota producers

Not only do they hurt crops, but they are extremely toxic to people and livestock, specifically...
Not only do they hurt crops, but they are extremely toxic to people and livestock, specifically horses.(none)
Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 9:08 PM CDT
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WARD COUNTY, N.D. – Blister beetles are becoming more widespread throughout the state, causing farmers and ranchers to worry amid an already stressful drought year.

The beetle populations usually spike in drought years, similar to grasshoppers, which is why so many producers in the state are seeing them now.

They feed on alfalfa, and can damage the plant, causing the crop to not grow.

Not only do they hurt crops, but they are also extremely toxic to people and livestock, specifically horses.

They release toxic oil when crushed or dead. It is estimated that 30 to 50 blister beetles could kill a horse if eaten. However, there is no threshold for cattle and sheep.

The beetles make harvesting alfalfa very challenging.

One rancher who owns horses in Ward County went to check on her fields after seeing a friend’s post about the beetles and was shocked to see her pasture full of them.

“I was pretty upset when I first saw them, especially because my horses had been turned out on that field the day before. So, I was a little bit worried about that and we haven’t had any experience with that before so, it was pretty shocking to see them,” said Connie Buck, a Ward County resident.

Buck said her horses are not sick.

There are some pesticides that can be used to kill the blister beetles, but you have to be careful that you do not get them in your bale while harvesting. Paige Brummund with the North Dakota State University Extension offers another solution.

“Blister beetles like the flowering crops, so if you can cut you alfalfa in early bloom, hopefully there is not as many there. The other thought process is if you cut it and as it dries down, the beetles will move to another flowering crop,” said Brummund.

You can find more information about blister beetles on the NDSU Extension website.

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