The False Bombardier Beetle is a fascinating creature that belongs to the family Carabidae. These beetles are known for their bright colors and interesting defense mechanisms, which make them a popular subject of study among entomologists.
In their natural habitat, False Bombardier Beetles can be observed in various environments, such as woodlands, grasslands, and even relatively arid areas. The insects have some unique characteristics that help them cope with predators and various environmental challenges, making them highly adaptable and intriguing to study. Some key features of the False Bombardier Beetle include:
- Bright coloration
- Ejecting a hot chemical spray as a defense mechanism
- Active lifestyle, usually hunting at night
The defense mechanism exhibited by these beetles is quite remarkable. When threatened, they produce a noxious chemical mixture which is expelled as a spray from their abdomen. This spray is hot and carries an unpleasant odor, effectively discouraging predators from attacking them.
Understanding False Bombardier Beetles
Species and Characteristics
The False Bombardier Beetle belongs to the genus Galerita and is a member of the Carabidae family of ground beetles1. They are dark-colored, speedy, long-lived, and nocturnal carnivores2. Some notable characteristics of False Bombardier Beetles include:
- Paired abdominal glands that produce a defensive spray3
- Spray consisting mainly of concentrated formic acid, with some acetic acid and wetting agents2
Similarities and Differences with Bombardier Beetles
Both the False Bombardier Beetle and the Bombardier Beetle belong to the ground beetle family Carabidae, and share some similarities:
However, there are notable differences between the two species:
|Feature||False Bombardier Beetle||Bombardier Beetle|
|Chemical Spray||Formic acid, acetic acid2||Hydroquinone, hydrogen peroxide4|
|Temperature of the Spray||Room temperature||Boiling, irritating liquid4|
|Spray Production Process||Steady release of chemicals3||Internal chemical explosion in their abdomen4|
Though they differ in their defense mechanisms, both beetles are adept at warding off predators due to their noxious sprays. Remember to admire these fascinating insects from a distance, as the chemical defenses of both the False Bombardier Beetle and the Bombardier Beetle are quite effective at deterring threats2.
Physical Features and Traits
The False Bombardier Beetle, or Galerita janus, has a few key body features:
- Abdomen: The abdomen contains the glands that produce their defensive chemicals.
- Antennae: They have relatively long antennae, which aid in sensing their environment.
- Legs: The beetle possesses six legs, typical of insects, providing mobility and agility.
Coloration and Markings
False Bombardier Beetles exhibit distinctive colors and markings:
- Black: The majority of their bodies are black, helping them blend into their surroundings.
- Pronotum: Their pronotum (the plate covering the thorax) is often reddish-brown.
- Elytra: The elytra (hardened wing covers) may display slight metallic reflections.
|False Bombardier Beetle||True Bombardier Beetle|
|Color||Mostly black||Black and orange|
|Defensive Chemical||Formic acid||Hydroquinone & Hydrogen Peroxide|
|Lifespan||Several weeks||Several years|
As seen in the table, False Bombardier Beetles differ from their true counterparts in coloration, defensive chemical composition, and lifespan.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
Eggs and Larvae
False Bombardier Beetles (Galerita bicolor) begin their life cycle as eggs laid by adult females. They typically lay eggs in moist areas, providing a suitable environment for the developing larvae. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae emerge and start feeding.
Some key features of the larvae stage include:
- Smaller in size than adults
- Predators of smaller insects
Pupa and Adult
In the next stage of development, False Bombardier Beetle larvae transform into pupae. They encase themselves in a protective cocoon where they undergo metamorphosis. Following this development, the adult beetles emerge with fully grown characteristics, such as a hard exoskeleton and fully functioning wings.
Adult False Bombardier Beetles are known for their defense mechanism, which involves releasing a mixture of formic acid and acetic acid when threatened 1. Their lifespan varies depending on their environment and species, but some can survive for several years under suitable conditions 2. They reproduce sexually, with males and females mating to pass on their genes 3.
Comparison of key characteristics between larvae and adult False Bombardier Beetles:
|Feeding||Predators of smaller insects||Predators of various insects|
|Defense Mechanism||None||Release of formic and acetic acids|
Habitat and Diet
Finding Their Preferred Environment
The False Bombardier Beetle (Galerita sp.) is known to thrive in various environments. They can typically be found in:
These beetles are most active during the night, as they search for food and shelter.
The main components of a False Bombardier Beetle’s diet consist of:
- Other small arthropods
These beetles may also fall prey to larger predators such as birds.
|Active||Mostly during night||Mostly during night|
|Diet||Insects, larvae||Insects, larvae|
|Predators||Birds and larger insects||Birds and larger insects|
With this information in mind, the False Bombardier Beetle seems to be quite adaptable when it comes to its habitat and diet preferences, able to survive and thrive in various environments.
False Bombardier Beetles (genus Galerita) defend themselves by releasing a combination of formic acid and acetic acid. These chemicals are stored in the beetle’s abdomen and are produced through the reaction of hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide. For comparison, true Bombardier Beetles (genus Brachinus) produce a different chemical mixture, which contains more potent and heated substances.
|False Bombardier||Formic and Acetic acid|
Protecting Themselves Against Predators
- Formic acid: It’s the main defensive chemical in the beetle’s arsenal. It smells bad and deters both vertebrate and invertebrate predators. This acid takes about 5 days for the beetle to replace after one burst source.
- Acetic acid: It adds to the repellent effects of formic acid.
For example, when these beetles were exposed to Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), naïve, hand-reared quail attacked live beetles, indicating the absence of an innate aversion to them source. However, the aversive, irritating chemicals secreted by the beetles likely serve to deter future predation attempts.
In conclusion, the defense mechanisms of False Bombardier Beetles involve a combination of chemical reactions producing strong-smelling and irritating acids, mainly formic and acetic acids. These substances protect the beetles by repelling predators and discouraging future attacks.
Interaction with Humans
Are They Dangerous?
The False Bombardier Beetle (Galerita janus) is not considered dangerous to humans. Their primary defense mechanism consists of spraying concentrated formic acid (around 80%) along with some acetic acid. This ensures a safe distance from potential predators but does not pose a significant risk to people.
Prevention and Control
Although not dangerous, it’s understandable that you might not want these beetles in your living spaces, especially in areas like your basement. To prevent them from entering your home, follow these tips:
- Seal any cracks in exterior walls
- Keep windows and doors well-fitted
- Clean up debris in your yard
In case you find them indoors, you can take the following steps to get rid of them:
- Use insecticides specifically designed for beetles
- Regularly clean your basement to reduce any potential hiding spots
- Keep in mind that their activity usually increases during the spring and fall seasons
It’s essential to use accurate information to identify these beetles correctly, as they are often mistaken for cockroaches. A picture of the False Bombardier Beetle can be found on bugguide.net. They typically have a length of about 1.0 to 1.8 inches.
|Feature||Cockroach||False Bombardier Beetle|
|Length||0.5 – 2 inches||1.0 – 1.8 inches|
|Legs||Six legs||Six legs|
|Body structure||Flat, oval-shaped||Elongated|
|Primary defense||Fast running||Formic acid spray|
To sum it up:
- False Bombardier Beetles are not dangerous to humans
- They use a formic acid spray as a defense mechanism
- Regularly cleaning your home and properly sealing it can help prevent and control their presence
Remember to treat these creatures with care and avoid prolonged exposure to their defensive spray as it can cause irritation.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – False Bombardier Beetle
red and black beetle
Location: Beavercreek Ohio
August 24, 2011 2:23 pm
I found this beetle on our living room carpet and could not find anything that looked like it on the web, the closest I could find was a blister beetle and I don’t think that is it. It has a black head about the same size as it’s red thorax with a black abdomen, it has red legs. We found it the 24th of August in Beavercreek Ohio. We live near a pond and trees.
This is a fairly common Ground Beetle in the genus Galerita known as a False Bombardier Beetle, and it is most likely Galerita bicolor. Ground Beetles including the False Bombardier Beetles are beneficial predators.
Letter 2 – False Bombardier Beetle
Subject: unwanted house guest
Location: northeast Alabama
October 17, 2013 6:48 am
I have been finding these little guys every morning for about two Weeks. They will be lying at random places throughout the house. The first few I thought (ah,a bug got in from outside.) Now finding four to five every morning i’m thinking (uh, we got a problem). They resemble a false blister beatle, but have orange legs along with the orange neck. With a black body and black head and long orangish antennas. And measure about an inch long. Any help would be appreciated.
Signature: unhappy hostess
Dear unhappy hostess,
As unwanted visitors go, you could do much worse than this False Bombardier Beetle. According to BugGuide, the False Bombardier Beetles in the genus Galerita: “eat other insects, especially caterpillars.” BugGuide also notes they are found in: “Open woodlands, under stones, leaves. Come to lights, sometimes wander into houses.” Perhaps you have a light near where they are finding access and you should consider keeping that light off at night. False Bombardier Beetles do possess chemical defenses, but they pose no serious threat to humans or pets.
Subject: Found it!
October 19, 2013 9:29 am
Found it, False Bombardier Beetle. Makes sense.
Your website was the only thing I found helpful!!!
Signature: Kim E.
Thank you! I actually had figured it out after sending you this message thanks to your page. It was the only page I found helpful! Thanks again so much!
Letter 3 – False Bombardier Beetle: Is it connected to Sores????
Blister Beetle + sore?
Location: Southern Missouri
May 18, 2011 10:44 pm
Daniel, I live in Southern Missouri and have recently been waking to nocturnal ”bites” that produce an intense burning sensation but no sign of an actual bite until a day or so later, when a sore appears (2nd photo). This beetle may be the culprit because it has recently shown up in our home. I can’t find it in your blister beetle archives, however. Can you help? Thanks, Bob
The beetle you submitted is not a Blister Beetle, but a False Bombardier Beetle in the genus Galerita, and it is a Ground Beetle. You may read more about it on BugGuide, including the warning that “Caution: These beetles have chemical defenses (see Rossini et al. 1997)”. Following that link to the Proceedings of the National Sciences of the United States (PNAS), we learned that the spray contains formic acid and that “Formic acid is a potent irritant, deterrent to vertebrates and invertebrates alike.” Your letter specifically states you are waking to nocturnal “bites” but since bites is in quotes, it seems you have some doubt that they might actually be bites. We don’t believe the False Bombardier Beetle to be responsible for your sores, though we might be wrong. We can’t imagine that a beetle that has chemical defenses that need to be replenished would actually expend those chemicals unless it really felt threatened. False Bombardier Beetles are beneficial predators and one should avoid handling them. We are going to tag this posting as a mystery and we truly hope the False Bombardier Beetle is not the culprit, but that would mean something else is lurking between the sheets.
Letter 4 – False Bombardier Beetle
Location: Tiverton RI
April 20, 2015 6:58 pm
I have been lining in a newly purchased house since November. This is my first spring season here. This bug was in my Living room. Mid April. In Tiverton RI. I have never seen this before. I just want to know what it is. It is a high res photo so it can be blown up to see quite clearly. Thank you for your time.
This predatory False Bombardier Beetle is considered a beneficial insect because it will feed on other potentially problematic insects.
Letter 5 – False Bombardier Beetle
Subject: Red and black beetle?
October 20, 2014 8:24 pm
I found this darling after work the other day. Eveningtime, autumn weather, in the parking lot. It was about 2 inches long, see photo of it in a plastic cup. Long legged, with covered wings like a beetle, but kind of soft to the touch, not crunchy like a typical beetle shell. It was trapped in a puddle, so I dried it off and made sure it was ok before I let it go into the weeds. 🙂
You rescued a False Bombardier Beetle in the genus Galerita, and you can read more about this predatory Ground Beetle on BugGuide. We are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.
Letter 6 – False Bombardier Beetle Impailed
Dear, Whats That Bug,
Hello, my name is Joshua and I need some help identifying this bug. It looks like it is half beetle, half ant, and is about an inch and a quarter long. I live in Huntsville, Alabama attached are some pictures that i took of the bug. Note: The large yellow spot is part of the pin I used to hold the bug.
We feel the pain being endured by the poor impaled False Bombardier Beetle, genus Galerita. These are Ground Beetles and they are predatory. They are not at all harmful to you or your pets or your lovely beige carpet.
Letter 7 – False Bombardier Beetle
Subject: unknown insect
Location: saint Paul minnesota
October 2, 2012 9:35 pm
Hi bugman I live in saint Paul mn. I live in my friends basement where is usually only see centipedes and small spiders. the basement is kind of damp and moldy but ive been running a dehumidifier to keep in dry. my house sits about 60 feet away from a rail road track and every time a train goes by the whole house shakes and a bunch of dirt and dust fall from the cealing. Not sure what type of bug this is or if it is foreign to Minnesota.
Signature: just would like to know what kind of insect it is
Letter 8 – False Bombardier Beetle
Subject: strange beetle I can’t identify
Location: Missouri, United States
April 16, 2015 10:10 pm
I’ve searched and searched but I can’t seem to find a match to this beetle! I’m sure you all probably know what it is. I went out and captured one specifically for identification purposes for you, but I accidentally damaged part of the wings ;_; they’re very fast and I was using large tweezers to pick it up
Since this False Bombardier Beetle spends most of its life on the ground hunting for prey, the damaged elytra might not have a terribly detrimental effect on its survival. You can read more about False Bombardier Beetles from the genus Galerita on BugGuide where it states: “Adults eat other insects, especially caterpillars.”