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Today, I offer my first-ever dual themed post, where I have attempted to contribute something worthy of both House of Herps (HoH) and An Inordinate Fondness (AIF) blog carnivals. Both carnivals offer monthly editions with the same deadlines and virtually the same publication dates. I’ve missed the deadlines, but want to support these carnivals anyway…so if you wander off the beaten path from HoH #14, hosted by Joy at The-Little-House-in-the-Not-So-Big-Woods, or from AIF #12, hosted by Bug Girl at Bug Girl’s Blog, you’ll find this better-late-than-never tag-along to two of nature-blogging’s finest carnivals. So, without further delay, I give you, “Red-eared Blisters.” 😉


This emerald-eyed beauty is a Red-eared Slider (Chrysemys scripta elegans), basking not only in the sun, but in its freedom. I recently visited a commercial pet store to purchase dog food, and noticed a terrarium with a small Red-eared Slider captive. I see these common freshwater turtles just about anytime I visit a pond, and I was surprised to see this familiar animal in such an unnatural setting. I’ve known that turtles are often captured from the wild and sold to pet stores, because I’ve read about it. But seeing a turtle on display to be sold was like a sock in the gut.

When a wild animal is held captive, the captor becomes solely responsible for the many requirements to keep that animal alive and healthy. How many turtle owners purchased a turtle thinking that turtles are “cool,” and that it would be pretty easy to care for them? That a turtle would make a great pet for a child? Did they know that Red-eared Sliders can live 50-70 years?1  Will they learn about the responsibilities of caring for a captive turtle before or after they make their purchase? Or ever?

My hope is that turtles (as well as other wild animals) will be left in the wild, where they can care for themselves as only they know best. We can appreciate them in the wild with a trip to the great outdoors or a neighborhood park. In this way, a turtle sighting will be a source of fun and excitement, instead of a daily routine that quickly becomes tiresome and neglected.

I’ll close with a link to Animal Planet’s website that does a pretty good job of describing the responsible way to care for captive Red-eared Sliders. I know that some readers have or may obtain a pet turtle in the future, and I would like to help those turtles by educating owners and would-be owners about the best way to care for these animals. Please visit Animal Planet’s website article, “Red-eared Slider: Care and Feeding of This Common Pet Turtle.”



The name, “Blister Beetle” imparts an instant wariness upon reading the name. But what if you encounter a “neat bug” in the wild and are prone to touching or capturing the neat stuff you see, for closer inspection? Whether plant or animal, you may be better off just looking unless you know what you are dealing with.

This beetle is a species in the Genus Epicauta, known for the caustic substance they excrete from their legs. That’s right…from their LEGS. The reddish substance is called cantharidin, and would be an unwelcome surprise to anyone who handled the beetle enough for it to excrete its own hemolymph, which contains this defensive toxin. Though cantharidin does have medicinal uses, horses have died from eating hay that contained blister beetles.2

I would be remiss if I did not also mention that cantharidin is also most well known by its common name, Spanish Fly – once used as an aphrodisiac. I guess if your idea of “sexy” is to eat beetle powder that causes itching and swelling of your private parts…and you don’t mind possible kidney damage or death…then head to your local apothecary, witch doctor, or The Google.

At any rate, I’m glad that I now know what a blister beetle looks like, and can share that knowledge with others. Interesting…Yes, cuddly…No!

  1. From Animal Planet’s, “Red-eared Slider: Care and Feeding of This Common Pet Turtle”, located at http://animal.discovery.com/guides/reptiles/turtles/slider.html
  2. Bugguide.net, on Family Meloidae (Blister Beetles), located at http://bugguide.net/node/view/181

11 Responses to “Red-eared Blisters”

  • Actually, red-eared sliders have become established in parts of the country where they aren’t native, thanks to people releasing unwanted pets.

  • I’ve read about that as well, Rebecca. All too common, which is why we have pythons flourishing in the Florida Everglades.

  • It’s SO FRUSTRATING to try and convince people to leave wildlife in the wild. I feel like I’m bashing my head against a brick wall with my 5th graders sometimes.

    • Whether 5th graders or grown-ups, it seems like it is hard for people to like something and not want to possess it. Sounds like you may want to take it easy on the brick wall. 😉

  • Amber, You make such an important point in this post! Here is NYC, there are MANY red-eared sliders in the city park ponds. I have been told that they are not native and are released pets – and descendants of released pets. I am old enough to remember when the five and dime stores sold teeny tiny red-eared sliders as pets for a quarter. The NYC ponds hold quite a mix of turtles, native and non-native (just like the city itself).

    • I guess America is a “melting pot” for more than just humans. We travel, mix & mingle all of the time, but its not such a good idea to actively do the same with flora and fauna. It’s not really our place to decide, either, IMO. If red-eared sliders traveled to NYC on their own, that would be…natural, I guess. I always worry about introduced species (even if within the same continent) bearing the brunt of backlash from people and other animals when they find themselves plopped into an ecosystem where they are unwanted.

  • Gardeners have a love/hate relationship with blister beetles. Sometimes they undergo major population explosions. Tens of adult beetles munching on a tomato plant can strip its foliage fairly quickly. On the other hand, blister beetle larvae eat grasshopper eggs, thus helping to control another pest.

    As a general rule, I agree wild creatures are best left in the wild, though I do accept some research and/or educational exceptions. Certainly, anyone who chooses to confine a wild critter has a responsibility to care for it properly.

    • Hi Marvin – I am surprised that I have never noticed a blister beetle in my years of gardening. Maybe I should count myself lucky. And I’ve got TONS of grasshoppers, though I know for a fact that my resident green snake likes to eat them…so I don’t mind.

      Agree about some exceptions to captive wild animals. Especially where wildlife rehab is concerned. If a wild animal was injured but unable to recover well enough to be released, a captive life in a quality facility is the best we can do for them.

  • “Red-eared blisters” – cute!

  • Cassandra Maull:

    Dear Amber,

    I discovered your website while researching Texas persimmons and was blown away. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Your pictures and documentation are outstanding. I am a nube to blogs and blogging. I also haven’t read all of your writings, but your love of our dwindling fauna and your skill as a communicator give me hope tor their future, and for homo sapiens as well. “The times they are a changing” quite painfully, but, you have opened eyes and, hopefully, spurred some of us to do more to protect our nature friends.

    Good luck with everything going on in your life. You have all kinds of people pulling for you, including this one.

    Again, thank you.
    Cassie Maull.

    • Cassie, thanks so much for leaving such a wonderful comment. I was just about to leave my desk (I work from home) when I saw your message. I’ve been meaning to share more photos and some quick comments, and truthfully, your kind words inspired me to sit back down and spend the time. Thank YOU!

      BTW, my Texas Persimmon tree is FULL of fruit this year…can’t wait for them to ripen!

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