False Bombardier Beetle

Large Ant-Like Beetle?
Location: Atlanta, GA
April 1, 2011 5:19 pm
I found a large bug in my bathtub late last night. About an inch and a half long, six legs, long brown antennae coming to a point. Eyes appeared to be orangey. Small black head, small brown thorax (the same color as the legs and antennae), rather large oval black abdomen. (In the included photo, the angle of the tub seems to have played a trick; the bug was actually noticably larger than the paper clip.)
He (she?) was wingless, not shiny, and while he couldn’t climb the walls of the tub, he did manage to scurry vertically up an empty tp roll, with an impressive amount of hustle. No apparent weaponry… I couldn’t see pinchers or a stinger or even large mandibles.
We’re in Atlanta, Georgia. The weather has been temperate, but gray and rainy for the better part of a week. He may have come up the drain, because I don’t see another way he could have ended up in my bathtub!
Signature: Heather P.

False Bombadier Beetle

Dear Heather,
This little beauty is a False Bombardier Beetle in the genus
Galerita.  False Bombadier Beetles, like other Ground Beetles, are predatory hunters, but what distinguishes them is a unique defense mechanism.  The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America website (PNAS) has an paper entitled Defensive production of formic acid (80%) by a carabid beetle (Galerita lecontei).  The article notes:  “Formic acid is a potent irritant, deterrent to vertebrates and invertebrates alike, and it serves ants effectively in defense” and the False Bombardier Beetle actually ejects the formic acid as a spray.  As a side note, we realized that on many of our past postings, especially the oldest postings, we incorrectly spelled the name Bombardier as Bombadier, and we have taken the opportunity to correct our errors thanks to your letter.

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