The articles “Battle Blister Beetles” and “Travelin' Man” in your March 2003 issue (pages 22, 24) unfairly singled out the state of Oklahoma. This was all based on hearsay without any proof that “Oklahoma is full of blister beetles.” It's simply not true.
Articles like these damage the reputation of growers who have provided hay to the horse industry for many years without problems. Mr. Mayer fails to address the basic issue in that beetles are swarming insects and don't honor state lines.
I was disappointed that he did not share his protocol for detecting blister beetles or the toxin in hay that he purchases. Obviously, he has some type of method or he wouldn't be driving thousands of miles to buy baled hay free of the insects. That would have been most valuable as there is no known method to determine the presence or absence of the toxin in baled hay.
It's a given that blister beetle toxin is lethal to horses. However, there are several myths associated with the toxin. One myth: A single portion of one beetle, such as the wing, is sufficient to kill a horse. Research by a toxicologist at a veterinary college showed that an 800-lb horse would have to ingest 25 blister beetles to cause death. The toxin, cantharidin, is similar to capsicum, which is the “heat” in hot peppers.
Articles like these that will result in irreparable harm to a particular state have no place in Hay & Forage Grower.
Kansas State University
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