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American Oil Beetle

The American Oil Beetle belongs to the family of blister beetles that can irritate human skin when threatened.

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Image Credit: Scott S. from Denville, New Jersey
Full-sized image #1 of the American Oil Beetle Thumbnail image #1 of the American Oil Beetle
Image Credit: William S.
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Image Credit: Tim, taken on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.
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Image Credit: Ginni C. from New York.
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Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Family: Meloidae
Genus: Meloe
Species: americanus
American Oil Beetles are black with either a satin, smooth, or matte sheen on their elytra. A blue hue may cover the beetle in certain lighting. The elytra that cover the wings may be shorter than the abdomen of the beetle, leaving the body exposed. What makes these seemingly non-descript beetles unique is their ability to secrete a yellowish oil that reacts painfully with skin and other insects' exoskeletons. This chemical defense occurs when it is threatened or squeezed upon being picked up. The oil can 'burn' a would-be predator to the point of being left along, but it can also cause redness, irritation, and blisters on humans that touch or hold it.

These beetles are most often seen walking through the grass or on patios and sidewalks. They do not fly. They are more active in spring than other times of year, and small children may be attracted to them and try to pick them up, which could elicit the oil secretion.©BeetleIdentification.org

The American Oil Beetle is typically 0.2 inches to 0.6 inches (7mm to 17mm) in size and has the following descriptors / identifiers: black; blue; hard shell; segmented body; large abdomen; antenna.

Color Identification Guide

Various colors commonly associated with this beetle.


Beetle Anatomy

Sighting Guide (Jan-Dec)

The general likelihood of encountering this beetle based on a given month of the year in the United States.


Territorial Area Map (Visual Reference Guide)

The map below showcases (in blue) the states and territories of North America where the American Oil Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data can be useful in seeing concentrations of a particular species over the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some species are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America.
Prince Edward Is.  
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
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New Jersey
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Similar Beetles

Similar beetles to the American Oil Beetle that are associated with or commonly mistaken for...

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