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Bombardier Beetles

Summary: The Bombardier beetle may pose a threat to your backyard. But be careful when handling them! The Bombardier beetle emits a boiling-hot spray that could easily burn skin!

Bombardier beetles are fascinating creatures to observe, but watch out if you get too close to them. They secrete extremely hot toxic gases from their abdomens to ward off predators. The gases can reach temperatures of  212°F. I can only imagine how painful that must feel.

When the Bombardier beetle sprays its gas, a loud pop can be heard, caused by the gases hitting the air as the mixture exits the beetle's body. The mixture immediately vaporizes creating a little cloud of smoke. The intense pain, plus the accompanying œpop will tell you the beetle has hit its target. As an added bonus, the spray has a foul smell. The bombardier beetle can aim its spray with great accuracy. It uses deflectors to aim at the exact body part it wishes to spray. The spray travels very quickly, so predators do not have much reaction time. The beetle can spray its toxic œbombs numerous times in a row. Maybe they should be renamed machine-bomb beetles. Interestingly, when the bombardier beetle releases its toxic spray, it also covers itself with it. Scientists cannot determine how the beetle remains unharmed by this hot, irritating spray.

Ants seem to be the Bombardier beetle's biggest predator. Both insects live on the ground and fight over food and territory. Frogs and spiders also pose a threat to the bombardier beetle. While most other insects can take off quickly and fly away, the Bombardier beetle requires more flight preparation time. It's got to unfold its wings, get clearance from the tower and all that stuff. So, the  œbombing spray is its defense until it has time enough to roll down the runway.

The Bombardier beetle can be found on most of the continents of the world. It lives beneath rocks and loose bark, so you should be relatively undisturbed even if they are near your home. It likes to walk around at night to find its food, which consists of caterpillars and small insects making it a beneficial insect to have around, at a distance, of course.

You can observe Bombardier beetles during the day in the springtime. This is the time when they actively search for mates. The females lay eggs in the spring, too. If you notice bombardier beetles in early spring and do not want them damaging your yard, it is best to get rid of them as soon as possible before they reproduce. Female bombardier beetles lay their eggs in small patches of mud. They then stick the mud onto rocks, twigs, or plants.

To get rid of Bombardier beetles, a long-lasting pesticide like Talstar Pro can be applied directly on non-edible plants. If bug spray does not work, then put on a pair of gloves and long sleeves and gently scoop the beetle into a jar. Remember to have your skin completely covered, or you may feel the Bombardier's wrath. That will feel a lot like touching a very hot stove! If you want to avoid that nasty spray at all costs, then call your local exterminator.

To keep this occasional invaders from entering your home you need to seal up possible entryways such as door thresholds or cracks around window or door frames. For sealing cracks I like to use the steelwool-like product called Xcluder. It's easy to use and works great! To set up a pesticide barrier around windows and doors I recommend using an aerosol pesticide called D-Force HPX. Just read and follow the label directions.

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