Bombardier Beetles

Scientific Name: Brachinus spp.

Bombardier Beetle

Description: Over 40 species of bombardier beetles are found in the United States. Each has blue elytra (wing coverings) and a reddish head and limbs. They are considered remarkable because of their ability to shoot a boiling, corrosive substance at predators. An important feature of these beetles is the presence of two chambers within their abdomen that keep the critical reactants apart until they are ready to be discharged. When the beetle feels threatened, the contents of these two chambers are combined and fired through the abdominal tip. Without two separate chambers, the beetle wouldn’t be able to survive! The abdominal tip through which their defensive chemical is sprayed can be rotated 270 degrees so that they can more easily fire at predators.

Size: Usually less than an inch long.

Diet: Small insects.

Typical Lifespan: Bombardier beetles probably live for several weeks.

Habitat: Bombardier beetles can be found in temperate woodlands and grasslands where there is ground cover for them to hide under.

Range: Every continent except Antarctica and Asia.

Life History and Reproduction: Eggs are laid underground, in decaying plant matter, animal carcasses, or anywhere else that is convenient and away from predators. The newly hatched beetle must undergo several molts before it reaches maturity.

Fun Fact: The bombardier beetle has been the source of much argument between creationists and evolutionary biologists. The creationist argument states that bombardier beetles could not have evolved their complex defense structure, because the corrosive chemicals would have killed them before the proper abdominal chambers could be developed. This argument has been discredited by evolutionists who suggest that the complex mechanism evolved from a number of simpler structures.

Conservation Status: Presumed stable.

University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web 
Dallas Zoo Animal Facts Database
Evans, A. V. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.: New York, NY 2007.


Related Articles
  • News of the Wild

    Nature helps kids learn, explosive insect, first-known warm-blooded fish and more

Get Our E-Newsletter 
Help Wildlife. Symbolically adopt an animal today!
Subscribe to Ranger Rick Magazines today!