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Bombardier Beetles

Bombardier Beetles

Genus: Brachinus

Status: Not Listed

Classification: Invertebrate

Description

More than 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. The abdominal tip through which their defensive chemical is sprayed can be rotated 270 degrees so they can more easily fire at predators. These beetles tend to be very small in size, usually growing to be less than an inch (2.5 centimeters) long.

Range

Bombardier beetles can be found on the continents of North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Australia. They thrive in temperate woodlands and grasslands where there is ground cover for them to hide under.

Diet

Bombardier beetles mostly eat small insects.

Life History

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. Bombardier beetles probably live for several weeks.

Conservation

The bombardier beetles' populations are thought to be stable.

Fun Fact

Without the two abdominal chambers to keep the beetles' corrosive chemicals separate, the beetles would not survive.

Sources

Animal Diversity Web, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology

Dallas Zoo

Evans, A. V. National Wildlife Federation Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.: New York, NY 2007.

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