The Black Botswana Battery-Acid Blister Beetle, Part One

Okay, I’m embellishing the name a little bit, but there really is an insect called a blister beetle. I should know.  I expected dangerous wildlife on our trip – but, insects?

Allow me to set the scene for you. Uwe and I left the desert landscape of Namibia and crossed into Botswana.  We’re in a lodge in Kasane, having dinner at the lodge restaurant. Our drinks arrive and I watch bemused as something flies across the grounds in my direction.

The insect is dark brown or black, has really long antennae and a big wingspan. It’s the size of a softball, and before I know what’s happening it lands on my neck and begins to crawl down into my dress….  I bat it away. “Wow! Nature’s really something here!” I exclaim, or something stupid to that effect.

I wake up a few hours later and my neck is on fire. I look in the bathroom mirror and discover two spots where my skin has melted and peeled off. I remember the giant moth or bee or whatever the heck it was (it all happened so fast!) that flew a direct trajectory to where I sat. Suddenly I don’t feel as enchanted about the Nature here.

I spent the next two weeks wearing a scarf to hide the neck bandage

The next day I head out to the front desk of the lodge and ask as calmly as I can if they have a doctor or nurse available. “Something stung me or bit last night at supper,” I say, and show them my neck.

“Was it black?” asks one of the male staff members.

“Was it big? It comes every year ahead of the rainy season,” they tell me. No, it isn’t poisonous and I don’t need to find a doctor. And yes, it secretes a substance that dissolves the skin…. But they can’t tell me the NAME of the insect, just that it’s a black moth. A chemist at the Kasane drug store looks at the wound. He nods knowingly, prescribes a cortisone cream to put on it twice a day, and tells me to keep the wound bandaged. He’s  just as vague as the others: it was the black moth that arrives ahead of the rains.

I spend that night googling black moths and can’t find anything that looks like the critter that either tried to attack me or make love to me….

NOTES: ©2023 Jadi Campbell. Photo ©2023 Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys,  Grounded and The Trail Back Out.

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was the 2023 San Francisco Book Festival Winner for General Fiction, American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

13 thoughts on “The Black Botswana Battery-Acid Blister Beetle, Part One”

    1. when the pain woke me up, at first I thought I’d been stung by a scorpion, but wait, Botswana doesn’t have scorpions, so what was going on, and then I remembered the insect that tried to dive down my dress… when I heard the name ‘blister beetle’ I knew that had to be my bug.

  1. Jadi, that sounds ghastly. I did some reading about the beetles in the Genus Epicauta. Fascinating. I hope you have healed and have no post-sting sequelæ.

  2. Wow! That wasn’t the greatest experience, but it made for a fascinating tale! So sorry you were the subject of that incident. How did you figure out what attacked you?

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