The Black Botswana Battery-Acid Blister Beetle, Part Two

The following week we join an all-day game drive which involves getting up at 5:00 a.m. and sitting in the back of a safari jeep for two hours in order to reach Moremi Game Reserve. This game reserve is where we see the pack of wild dogs I wrote about.

The jeep holds nine people. We’re in fantastic luck, because two German couples have brought a personal guide. He’s from Namibia but comes often to Botswana. Uwe and I tag along for free on a personally guided tour as he identifies animal tracks and vegetation and gives fascinating and detailed talks on every single animal we spot. (A pair of sleeping lionesses, African buffalo, zebras, impalas, fish eagles, elephants, wildebeests, springboks, and much, much more.) He has phenomenal knowledge about everything – politics, history, the land, the region, the flora and fauna.

More wild elephants live in the Okavango Delta than anywhere else in the world
We’ve tentatively identified this bird as a Wahlberg’s eagle
Pavians. I hate wild monkeys
When we left the Moremi Game Reserve 8 hours later they were still sleeping, gathering their energy for the night’s hunt

We take a break for lunch and are allowed to climb out of the jeep for a bit. I ask him if he knows about the insect life, too, and tell him about my encounter with the battery-acid exuding bug….

He asks some questions, cautions me to keep the wound covered at all times, and tells me, “It must have been a Mopane moth, named for the  endemic bush veld here.”

I’m relieved beyond description to finally have an actual name for what bit me! But that night back at the lodge I go online and the Mopane moth doesn’t look anything like I remember. Crap. My feeling of relief vanishes.


The next morning at breakfast Uwe and I stop at the table where the German couples and guide sit so we can chat one last time and say goodbye.  The guide looks at me and says, “You know, last night when I returned to my room, I kept thinking about your story. I called a colleague and told him about it. He thinks the insect was a blister beetle.”

I don’t believe what I’m hearing. After a 13-hour day riding around on bone-jarring dirt roads lecturing to tourists, he went back to his room and called a colleague to consult with him about my insect attack?! Who does this sort of thing? A man who is a naturalist, a professional always curious to know more, and a fabulous human being!

Back in our room I google yet another insect and sure enough, there it is: the blister beetle. When I brushed it off my neck, it secreted a blistering fluid called cantharidin. It’s a dangerous burn agent, and in large doses it’s fatal.

There are about 7,500 kinds of blister beetles in the world (oh, joy). It gets weirder. Male blister beetles secrete cantharidin as a ‘gift’ during mating. Cantharidin is used for the notorious aphrodisiac Spanish fly. In 1772, the Marquis de Sade was put on trial after he poisoned an orgy with cantharidin.

Maybe that beetle was trying to make love to me after all.

NOTES: ©2023 Jadi Campbell. This post is for my father. He was an entomologist and I swear I can hear him chuckling. Bobbo would have LOVED this story. If for some creepy reason you need to know more, go here: Blister beetle Photos ©2023 Uwe Hartmann. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at

P.S. My skin healed over without leaving a scar. Thanks for asking!

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. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was semifinalist for the international 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).

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.

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



9 thoughts on “The Black Botswana Battery-Acid Blister Beetle, Part Two”

  1. wow, I think you were lucky it wasn’t worse.
    I remember being astonished at the huge number and variety of insects in Africa. It’s quite surreal.

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