Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson warned horse owners statewide today that they should carefully check their hay supply.
Blister beetles are so named because they emit a caustic chemical that can cause blisters if it comes in contact with skin. They are occasionally found in alfalfa hay imported into Florida.
Modern hay baling techniques crush the beetles, causing them to emit the irritant which can kill horses that eat the contaminated hay. The substance, called Cantharidin, is comparable to cyanide or strychnine in toxicity.
Although horses are considered to be very susceptible, it can also poison cattle or sheep.
The chemical also causes colic in horses.