Bombardier Beetles

© 2024 CTC Productions Pty Limited. All rights reserved. The material presented on this website, may not be reproduced or distributed, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of CTC Productions.

John Dengate met Jodi Rowley, from the Australian Museum, at Long Reef Golf Course. There they found a bombardier beetle hiding under a log. This remarkable creature is able to squirt would-be predators with boiling acid. The beetle can aim its firing tube in almost any direction, and if the hot fluid doesn’t deter the attacker, the very audible ‘pop’ usually does.

Bombardier Beetle (Pheropsophus verticalis)

There are 500 species of bombardier beetles and one of them is found in Australia. It is black with yellow spots and 1.2-1.8 cm long. When threatened, it mixes enzymes in one body chamber with hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinones in a second chamber. The result is a noxious spray of caustic benzoquinones, which explodes from its body at 100°C with a loud popping noise. The beetles can revolve their abdominal tips to spray different parts of the predator, much like the swivelling gun turrets on WWII bombers. Over a four-minute period, each beetle can produce around four worthwhile ‘shots’, each less powerful than the last.

Contact information

Australian Museum
6 College Street
Sydney 2010
Phone: (02) 9320 6000