The Bombardier Beetle Mace and How it Works

Not everyone treats bugs, spiders, and beetles like equals.  Unless they’re pretty like a ladybug or a butterfly, they can get pretty gross.  One bug that’s making its name known is the Bombardier Beetle.  This beetle looks like an ant with a tic on its back.  Not freaked out yet?  This little beetle shoots a spray similar to that of mace out of its bottom.

            Well it’s not actually its bottom.  Bombardier beetles have glands at the bottom of the abdomen, cloaked with a thick vestibule, which contains the mixture it uses to defend itself.  Bombardier beetle mace is a reaction of two different chemical compounds.  This little critter is carrying around a science lab- a lab for ants.  The chemicals are brought to a boil before released and even has a gas that drives the chemicals out.  Not only does this defense mechanism act as well, a defense, but the chemical reaction is also harmful to the human skin.

            It is unknown as to how the Bombardier beetle mace evolved to be what it is today but biologists believes it is derived from other beetles and natural selection.  Beetles to harden their exoskeleton produce a brownish substance called quinone, which is a combination of precursor and sclerotin chemicals.  This is just part of the evolutionary process that beetles have gone through.  Just like the Bombardier beetles mace, other beetles have a rancid smelling quinones stored within them.

            Not to say that the chemical the Bombardier beetles called benzoquinone isn’t smelly.  The Bombardier beetle’s mace does have a sharp odor.  But who’s to say its sharp like a fine cheddar cheese, or sharp like a room full of garbage.  Bombardier beetles are native to most of the continents, excluding Antarctica (lucky) and are ground beetles that like the woodlands and grasslands and basically anywhere the beetles can lay their eggs so as long as the environment is moist.

            The Bombardier beetles mace shoots out through a valve at the aforementioned abdomen.  Catalases lining the vestibule wall where the valves are facilitate the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide and water.  This chemical is raining nuclear warfare on any and all species intending to hurt the beetle.

            Not only is it impressive that this little Bombardier beetle maces everyone and everything that tries to hurt it, or that it carries along a little science lab for itself but its amazing strength.  The two chemicals found in the Bombardier beetle, hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone mix perfectly for defense.  If any human species were to go to a science lab and try the same thing, we would blow everything up, and not in a good, defense way.