Ew! Check out this tree in Prescott covered in beetles. Experts tell us they are blister beetles, which can be dangerous.

PRESCOTT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Here's a story sure to make your skin crawl.

A Prescott man shared a video of these creepy crawlers on Arizona's Weather Authority Facebook group. Christian Skari said these giant, black beetles were covering almost every tree in his Prescott neighborhood.

Group members quickly posted hundreds of comments, as people voiced their disgust, commenting "Freaky," "Heck, no," and "Ick." Some speculated on the type of species from cicadas to stink bugs to Palo Verde beetles.

Arizona's Family reached out to the Master Gardener at UArizona's Yavapai County Cooperative Extension program, who confirmed that these are blister beetles.

Blister beetle

Blister beetles have the ability to release a dangerous toxin when it comes in contact with human skin. That toxin causes painful blisters. (Photo Source: Michigan State University)

Blister beetles live throughout the state and often appear in northern Arizona this time of year. These beetles contain a defensive chemical called cantharidin that can be harmful to humans and livestock. The chemical can even be deadly if ingested by children.

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Blister beetles in Arizona are some of the largest in the world. They can grow up to a couple of inches long. What makes them dangerous is their ability to pop their blood vessels in leg joints, allowing yellowish blood to ooze out. That yellow blood creates blisters similar to poison ivy. These beetles will feed on just about any leaf that grows in your garden. You're most likely to come into contact with them while gardening, trimming shrubs, or planting flowers. Experts say you should make sure to wear protective gloves and long-sleeved shirts to help prevent exposure.

A Phoenix mom had a close encounter with one of these beetles a few years ago. Dr. Joanna Woods thought a bed bug or mosquito had bitten her, but she soon realized it was something much worse. "It was just so much pain that I couldn't get through the cloud of pain," said Woods. "It was excruciating. I could liken it to childbirth. When they ask you if the pain was between one and 10, there were times it was 10." Woods believes her encounter with the blister beetle took place at a Valley movie theater, when her arm started to itch, then turned red and swelled up.

Emanuel Jara with Responsible Pest Control said blister beetles have been in Arizona for years but usually leave people alone. "You can find them in parks, in bushes and your very own backyard," said Jara. "A lot of times people, when they are doing gardening, they'll encounter them, so it's just about being very cautious. My first thought is - gross - they're really ugly and gross," said Woods. "The idea of the whole concept of a blister beetle is really disgusting.

A creepy-crawly invasion of blister beetles is bugging Prescott residents. (Source: Christian Skari)

As for that Prescott resident who created the initial post? After he shared his initial video on Facebook, we asked Christian for more pictures. But when he returned to get more photos, most of the beetles were dead. He said, "the ground is black with them."

These bugs have been a hot topic over the last week, and our journalists wanted to make sure we could get you all the factual information as soon as we worked out all the bugs.


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