Insects Injurious to Drugs.


Other tomes: Sayre


From an Inaugural Essay presented to the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.

In this paper is given simply what has been noted by the writer during a study of these insects extending over more than a year.

Sirodrepa panicea.—This is the elliptical, reddish-brown beetle, about one-eighth of an inch long, which is found in almost every edible drug, and in some, such as aconite root and capsicum, that would be pronounced far from edible. In addition to these two drugs, I have found it in bitter almonds, sweet almonds, angelica, boneset, calumba, chamomile, chocolate, coriander, dandelion, elm bark, ergot, extract of licorice, German chamomile, orris root, prince's pine, rhubarb, squill, and sweet flag.

The larva is white, with a brown head, is about twice as long as the beetle when full grown, although it is seldom or never seen stretched out at fall length, always remaining curled up in a ball. It will in time fairly honeycomb a piece of root with small holes about one-twenty-fifth of an inch in diameter, at the end of which it is generally to be seen at home. Under the influence of camphor, these larvae become uneasy, but being apparently unable to crawl away, resign themselves to their fate, and seem to thrive just as well with camphor as without it.

Calandra remotopunctata.—This is a small, black beetle, about the size of the last, with what is popularly termed a "snout," projecting from the front of the head downwards. Under the microscope the back, thorax, and head are seen to be finely pitted, giving the insect a rough appearance. It was found in large numbers, the larva feeding on pearl barley, inside of which it lives, the egg being probably laid in the grain by the parent, and on hatching, the little insect makes its home there, eating all but the shell, and sometimes attacking the grain from the outside.

Tenebrioides mauritanica, a species of "meal-worm," was found in pearl barley, and one specimen in calumba. It is a dark brown beetle, five-sixteenths of an inch long, the head and thorax forming nearly half the total length, and the mouth being fringed with hair. The back, which at first sight appears perfectly smooth, proves to be, when examined under the microscope, longitudinally corrugated. The larva is nearly half an inch long, white, with a brown head, and between the jaws is a row of hair as in the perfect insect. The posterior end is furnished with a pair of jaws very similar, though, of course, for a different purpose.

Trebolium furrugineum is a flat, reddish-brown beetle, about one-eighth of an inch long, appearing smooth to the naked eye, though the microscope shows the back numerously pitted. These insects affect patent foods and similar substances, and the beetles are possessed of remarkable longevity, as proved by the fact that I have kept a few alive for two months in a small box with a little cerealina, which seems to be their favorite food. Whether the beetles themselves eat it or not I do not know, but they certainly have a liking for the dead bodies of other beetles.

Silvanus surinamensis is a narrow, brown beetle, almost one-eighth of an inch long, with a pitted and longitudinally corrugated back. One specimen only was found, on anthemis.

Anthrenus varius.—This insect has been found only in cantharides, but I believe, also attacks other animal drugs, such as castoreum. During the month of July there emerges from the egg a very active larva, densely covered on the tops of the segment, with stiff brown hairs, which, at the posterior end, point towards the centre of the back, form a ridge, and when the insect is annoyed, it has the power of dividing the ridge in the centre and throwing half down on each side in a fan-like position, the object of which movement could not be determined. When the insect has been feeding on the whole cantharides, all these hairs on the back become rubbed off, those forming the ridge being generally last to go, because, being on the downward slope of the body they are not exposed to the same amount of friction. Underneath, however, the hairs are shorter, and do not become rubbed off as on the back.

The larvae consists of eleven segments, those at the ends being of a much deeper brown than those towards the middle, and the six legs being inserted on the three anterior segments, each furnished with a short, straight claw. The skins are shed quite often during the larval state, and are discarded by a slit nearly the length of the back, terminating indifferently at either end, and through which the insect emerges. The shed skins present a beautiful iridescent appearance under the microscope when viewed by reflected light.

These larvae feed on the cantharides all winter, and, if in quantity, commit great havoc, leaving only the hard exterior portions untouched, such as the upper portion of the thorax, the green wing cases, and transparent wings. When their legitimate food gives out they have no compunction about first eating their dead parents, and then each other, but on this diet they do not seem to thrive so well.

The beetle emerges in May or June, and is about one-eighth of an inch long, oval, and black, the upper parts being marbled and streaked with whitish and rufous, which are rubbed off after death if the insect is subjected to any rough usage.

Camphor does not kill these larvae, and after keeping some for a day in a small box about a quarter full of camphor, the only thing worthy of remark in their actions was that they did not seem quite so lively as those kept without it. That they have a distaste for it, however, is proved by the fact that some which were put in a box with holes in it, left the box during the night. The Pharmacopoeia direction to keep camphor with the cantharides is, therefore, not a remedy, merely a preventive measure, and not a very good one either. The vapor of chloroform rapidly kills them, so that by putting a small quantity of chloroform in a gallipot on the top of the infested cantharides, the heavy vapor will sink through it and destroy them.

NOTE.—The essay was accompanied with specimens of the larvae, skins, and beetles, well mounted for examination by means of the microscope.—EDITOR.

The American Journal of Pharmacy, Vol. 55, 1883, was edited by John M. Maisch.