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Desert Diary

Insects/Bombardier Beetle


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What's red and blue and pops when you put it in your mouth? Actually, I hope you're smart enough NOT to put this little gem in your mouth, because you'll surely get more than you bargained for!

The Bombardier Beetle is well-known for its marvelous defense mechanism. This little insect may seem unusually feisty, if you come across one, but if you try to eat it, you'll know why. Bombardier Beetles have two chemicals stored away, and if anyone, human or animal, tries to eat them, these chemicals are mixed together to cause a mini explosion in the mouth! The flavor is horrible and the temperature very hot—at least, that's what the people who have tried them have said. Those red and blue warning colors are meant to be memorable. Once an animal tries to eat a Bombardier Beetle, pen and ink it's not likely to try again, especially when that nasty flavor takes days to subside!


Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, formerly of the Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio, University of Texas at El Paso.

Bombardier beetle

One of a number of species of Bombardier Beetles, Family Carabidae.



Borror, D. J., and R. E. White. A Field Guide to the Insects, America North of Mexico. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 404 pp.