Quirks & Quarks

Bombardier Beetle Blasts Toxic Spray from its Butt

Bombardier beetles blast their foes with high-temperature toxic spray, and how they control this explosion is revealed by high-speed x-ray imaging.

How beetles control (and survive) their explosive weapons

When the bombardier beetle is attacked by predators, it releases a rapid-fire, hot, toxic compound from the tip its abdomen in the direction of the threat. The compound - which reaches a temperature of 100°C - is the result of an explosive chemical reaction inside the beetle.

But scientists, including Eric Arndt, a PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at M.I.T., wondered how the beetle is able to withstand its own explosive defence mechanism.

Using high-speed X-ray imaging, they were able to identify a highly flexible internal membrane that is able to absorb the pressure of the explosion.

Related Links

Paper in Science
- M.I.T. release
- University of Arizona release
- Not Exactly Rocket Science blog