Bombardier Beetle

Facts & Identification

Latin Name

Brachinus spp

Appearance

The bombardier beetle is typically 6-10 millimeters long and boasts blue-colored elytra, or wing casing. Its head, thorax and limbs are a red or reddish color.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Have you ever heard of a bug capable of creating a chemical explosion? Meet the bombardier beetle—a superbug with the ability to shoot a chemical spray at prey through its abdomen. It’s found on every continent except Antarctica, and there are more than 40 species in the United States.

The bombardier beetle is a predator that feeds on smaller insects for sustenance. It has an alternative defense mechanism that involves shooting acid from its abdomen in virtually any direction.

The bombardier beetle has two chambers in its abdomen—one holds hydroquinone and the other holds hydrogen peroxide. When the beetle is threatened, these two elements combine to create an explosion of boiling hot chemical spray that is fired through the abdominal tip.  The abdominal tip can rotate 270 degrees for maximum defense and releases a popping noise when engaged, shielding the bombardier beetle against much bigger foes. To humans, the spray may feel like touching a hot stove.

Reproduction

The bombardier beetle lays its eggs underground in moist places, or in rotten wood, that are away from predators. The larvae are carnivorous and go through various molts before they are fully grown. The adult beetles only live for a few weeks, so their primary focus in adult life is to reproduce.