Exploring False Bombardier Beetle: Quick Facts and Intriguing Discoveries

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:

  • Dark-colored appearance2
  • Ability to produce noxious chemicals for defense2

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

Body Structure

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
  • Soft-bodied
  • 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:

Characteristics Larvae Adult
Size Smaller Larger
Body Soft Hard exoskeleton
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:

  • Backyards
  • Woodlands

These beetles are most active during the night, as they search for food and shelter.

Food Preferences

The main components of a False Bombardier Beetle’s diet consist of:

  • Insects
  • Larvae
  • Other small arthropods

These beetles may also fall prey to larger predators such as birds.

Backyards Woodlands
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.

Defense Mechanisms

Chemical Reactions

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.

Species Primary Chemicals
False Bombardier Formic and Acetic acid
True Bombardier Benzoquinone

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.

Footnotes

  1. https://uwm.edu/field-station/false-bombardier-beetle-redux/ 2
  2. https://uwm.edu/field-station/false-bombardier-beetle/ 2 3 4 5 6 7
  3. https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/bombardier-beetles 2 3
  4. https://news.mit.edu/2015/how-bombardier-beetles-produce-defensive-spray-0430 2 3

Reader Emails

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.
Signature: electronic

False Bombardier Beetle

Dear electronic,
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

False Bombardier Beetle
False Bombardier Beetle

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!!!
Warmly,
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
Signature: Robert

False Bombardier Beetle

Hi Robert,
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.

What Caused the Sore???

Letter 4 – False Bombardier Beetle

 

Subject: identification
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.
Signature: Greg

False Bombardier Beetle
False Bombardier Beetle

Dear Greg,
This predatory False Bombardier Beetle is considered a beneficial insect because it will feed on other potentially problematic insects.

Letter 5 – False Bombardier Beetle

 

False Bombardier Beetle
False Bombardier Beetle

Subject: Red and black beetle?
Location: Kentucky
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. 🙂
Signature: Casey

Hi Casey,
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

 

Beetle Ant?
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.

Hi Joshua,
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

False Bombardier Beetle

This fascinating creature is a False Bombardier Beetle in the genus Galerita.  You can compare you image to those posted to BugGuide.

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
Signature: Julian

False Bombardier Beetle
False Bombardier Beetle

Dear Julian,
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.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

41 thoughts on “Exploring False Bombardier Beetle: Quick Facts and Intriguing Discoveries”

  1. I would REALLY like to hear about the answers. I have sores EXACTLY like these on my fingers only. I don’t know if it’s something else, but it only happens in summer.

    Reply
  2. I just want to note that I looked up this bug after finding it in my bed. Fortunately, I captured the bug using a ziplock bag. I read after catching it that it could produce a chemical that can cause irritation. I’m glad I thought to use a different method than I usually do.

    Reply
  3. These beetles show up in my bathroom every spring. They come in through a break in the baseboard. I rather like them and look forward to their yearly arrival.

    Reply
  4. I find at least one False Bombardier Beetle in the house a day. They look creepy and are rather annoying. Besides keeping a possible light off at night where they might be sneaking in at, what else can I do to keep them outside?

    Reply
  5. Just found one of these bugs in my bed and laid my arm down on it and it felt like I got a shot and it stung and now it’s just sore around the area , it was very hard to kill and even after cutting the head off it still acted like it was still alive , is this common and can I expect any bad consequences from the bite ?

    Reply
  6. I litterally just found three in less than ten minutes in Hooper Nebraska. Are they harmful I have a small dog who eats everything.

    Reply
    • Though they might not taste too good, we don’t think eating a Bombardier Beetle will have a negative effect on your dog.

      Reply
  7. I keep finding them in my house. How can I get rid of them?? I’ve found 12 in the past 2 weeks. I’ve lived here for 3 1/2 years and I never seen one before. I live in Maryland.

    Reply
  8. i have this weird bug that looks similar to the picture only that theres some in my house and they head is more thin and long what is it?is it a giraffe weevil?is it a bombardier beetle?please help because its in australia!!!!!

    Reply
  9. yeah i found something similar to this bug but only that the head was longer and thinner,does that count as the same this?if not can i take a picture?and how do i send the picture?[because im only young]i keep finding them around the house i want to know if its poisonous or not?and again is it different if it looks different?please answer all questions because i am very scared right now!

    Reply
  10. My son as well got bit by one of these beetles as well on his neck and his neck got swollen and felt like it was burning and hot. No sign of even a bite until the next day! Very strange! Had to take him in to dr. and they gave him an antibiotic shot and prednisone and cream and it helped a bunch! His neck also after the swelling and such was gone revealed a large bite mark. This bug is most definitely the one! Maybe like anything else in life some are affected negatively from this beetle while others are not, kind of like bees! I don’t know but i feel more needs to be looked into about these buggers! P.S. we live in northwestern illinois near iowa

    Reply
  11. I literally just found one on my carpet in the living room I live in the water and have a lot of moisture and trees I live in Baltimore Maryland have seen a lot of bugs !!! NOT THIS ONE …March 27 th 2018

    Reply
  12. I have several in my converted basement home in Kansas, but their legs are black. Is it the same bug or different but related? (How do I upload a picture?) Thanks.

    Reply
  13. I also have recently found the Bombardier in my home. That I’ve lived in 6 years and never seen before. Yes it bites and yes after cutting off the head it was still alive 3 hours later. I have one in a Ziploc bag and am taking it to the Health Department Monday. I’m very worried over these beetles.

    Reply
  14. Let me just start by saying yes, I am one of those people with an irrational phobia of bugs! My first encounter was a few days ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to one of these crawling up my neck into my hair(literal worst nightmare). Then there was one just wondering around in my bathroom, then another today. Do they normally bother humans this much! I can’t even find where they are getting in the house. So besides calling an exterminator I’m not sure what else I can do.

    Reply
  15. I keep finding them in my laundry room, kichen and bathroom over the last several weeks. I had never noticed them before now. I live in rural North Mississippi

    Reply
  16. I keep finding them in my basement (finished walkout) but there are no lights on EXCEPT for my husband’s grow lights in the unfinished part of the basement. Could that somehow be attracting them?

    I find one or two per day.

    Reply
  17. Got this bite a week ago. It’s filled with clear liquid.Should I be concerned? I live in Sacramento,CA Seems to want to hang around.

    Reply
  18. Found this critter in MY BED! It crawled into my son’s shirt. He thought it was a cockroach until we captured him to see what it was set it free outside. I live in Moultrie, Georgia and I have seen many bugs in my life, but never one of these.

    Reply
  19. I saw this kind of bug running quickly across my carpet. I thought it was a giant ant or a wasp. My husband zapped it with the bug zapper because initially it appeared to be wingless. The shock of the zap triggered one of the wings. Wish I could share a photo of it. Alas, poor buglet…

    Reply

Leave a Comment