The Spanish fly (Lytta vesicatoria) is a blister beetle that is emerald green in colour (Meloidae). It and other species like it were used in Cantharides, or Spanish fly, preparations sold by traditional apothecaries. The terpenoid cantharidin, a poisonous blistering chemical long considered as an aphrodisiac, is derived from the bug.
Although its range of habitats is more fully characterised as “throughout southern Europe and eastward to Central Asia and Siberia,” or alternatively as “throughout Europe and parts of northern and southern Asia,” the Spanish fly is mostly a southern European species (excluding China). It’s found in the south of the United Kingdom and Poland.
Adult beetles eat the leaves of ash, lilac, amur privet, honey suckle, and white willow trees, but they also eat the leaves of plum, rose, and elm trees.
Only males create the protective chemical cantharidin, which females get from men during mating since the spermatophore contains some. This might be a wedding present, raising the female’s value of mating and consequently the male’s reproductive fitness.
The fertilised eggs are laid on the ground near a ground-nesting solitary bee’s nest by the female. As soon as they hatch, the larvae get right to work. They are clinging to a blossoming plant, waiting for a lone bee to appear. The three claws on their legs, which give the first instar larvae its name of triungulins, are used to latch themselves onto the bee. The bee returns to its nest and takes the larvae back.
Cantharidin, the main active ingredient in Spanish fly remedies, was discovered and identified by French scientist Pierre Robiquet in 1810, who established that it was the main chemical responsible for the violently blistering qualities of this insect’s egg covering. It was said at the time that it was as poisonous as the most lethal poisons known at the time, such as strychnine.
The amount of active ingredient in each beetle is believed to be between 0.2 and 0.7 mg, with males producing substantially more than females. The agent is secreted orally by the beetle, and it is exuded as a milky fluid from its joints. Since antiquity, the insect species’ potency as a vesicant has been known, as has the activation
The amount of active ingredient in each beetle is believed to be between 0.2 and 0.7 mg, with males producing substantially more than females. The agent is secreted orally by the beetle, and it is exuded as a milky fluid from its joints. The insect species’ vesicant properties have been recognised since antiquity, and the activity has been employed in a variety of ways. Its powdered form, known as cantharides (from the plural of Greek word, Kantharis, beetle), derived from dried and ground beetles, has led to its small-scale commercial production and sale. The crushed powder has a yellow-brown to brown-olive colour with iridescent reflections, an unpleasant odour, and a harsh flavour.
The enzyme phosphatase 2A is inhibited by cantharidin, making it highly poisonous. Irritation, blistering, bleeding, and discomfort are all symptoms of this condition. These effects can lead to mucosal erosion and bleeding in each system, which can be followed by severe gastro-intestinal haemorrhage, acute tubular necrosis, and glomerular destruction, which can lead to gastro-intestinal and renal dysfunction, organ failure, and death.
L.’s culinary creations In both incidental and intentional poisonings, vesicatoria and its active agent have been implicated. Cantharidin was used in a coconut-flavored confection as an intended aphrodisiac in a 1954 manslaughter case, according to Froberg, resulting in illness and death of the victim.
Although the selling of cantharides from L. vesicatoria in Moroccan spice markets was outlawed in the 1990s, spice mixes known as ras el hanout frequently included as a tiny ingredient “green metallic bugs,” assumed to be cantharides from L. vesicatoria. Cantharides were occasionally incorporated in Dawamesk, a North African spread or jam made with hashish, almond paste, pistachio nuts, sugar, orange or tamarind peel, cloves, and other spices.