Small, toxic beetles kill 14 horses on Wisconsin ranch

Blister Beetle

Steady rains over the summer in Wisconsin caused Cindy Kanarowski-Peterson to purchase six semi-tractor trailer loads of hay from South Dakota and Wyoming farms after the hay at her ranch became unusable.

After thinking her problems were solved, disaster struck.

As the Wisconsin State Journal reports, 14 of her horses were killed by blister beetles. The blister beetle is a bug, that when crushed, secrets a deadly toxin. The beetles also sickened another 100 horses on the ranch. With the infestation making that hay unusable, the ranchers are looking all over the region to keep their 110 horses fed.

Kanarowski is attempting to warn other ranchers about the dangers of blister beetles. The ranch has an insurance policy of loss of harvested hay due to a fire or tornado, but it does not cover blister beetles.

Initially, Kanarowski though the first cases were just colic, but as the problems grew she began to think it was bad grain. Once two of the horses were necropsied they were found to have holes in their stomachs, which is what caused their deaths, according to a local veterinarian. The horses who survived have a good shot at making a full recovery.

Kanarowski set up a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $50,000 to keep her horses fed and the veterinarian bills. As of Monday, 454 people have donated nearly $24,000 to the campaign.