The Bombardier Beetle: A Unique Defense Mechanism

Informative Article

The world is full of creations and evolution. Is it possible that the bombardier beetle, a beetle capable of shooting out boiling chemicals, came through evolution alone?

by Sriya Gundlapally

You may have seen beetles that use camouflage, have sharp edges, or even claws. But can you imagine a beetle that can shoot boiling hot liquid out at enemies as a method of self-defense? This may sound unrealistic, yet there’s living evidence of one that fits this description: the bombardier beetle. There are over 500 species of this beetle, and only 40 are seen in the United States. Researchers from decades earlier have been studying the beetles’ exteriors, but now, with more technology than ever, they are able to closely observe the insides. The results of this were even more shocking.

There is such a mechanism to the superpower of these beetles that scientists were only quite recently able to figure it all out. Attygalle, a chemist at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, put in hours of research to find that the beetle’s toxic spray is actually two different chemicals, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide. The beetle has two

chambers near its rear end to store these two chemicals. When the beetle is threatened, it initiates a chemical explosion at nearly 212 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of boiling water. This steaming concoction shoots rapidly onto the unsuspecting enemy.

This unique creature’s abilities have stumped many people. Creationists say that these beetles cannot possibly have evolved to have such a dangerous mechanism inside of them because of potentially deadly risks. On the other hand, evolutionists hypothesize that these beetles have gradually evolved to have different chambers and chemicals inside of them. The arguments are compelling on both sides, and the bombardier beetle is one of the few creatures which brings theories of evolution into doubt.

The Creationist Perspective:

Scott Huse, the author of The Collapse of Evolution, describes how Darwinists, or evolutionists, are struggling to find the proper evidence for evolution being the answer to the chemical defense system. He, like many other creationists, claims that the beetles’ abilities are too advanced to have just evolved over the years. They also found that evolution is highly risky for the beetle since it is likely to explode from the inside because of the chemicals accidentally reacting with the anti-inhibitor. The other risk would be that the beetle is weighed down by “useless baggage.”

Dr. Gish, a former leader at the ICR (Institute for Creation Research), asserted that the chemicals used by the bombardier beetle are known to spontaneously explode when even slightly mixed. This has been used for years to explain that evolution cannot occur safely with two potentially explosive chemicals. Dr. Gish was by the research of a German entomologist, Dr. Schildknecht. Although the claims do not correctly align, the creationist thoughts are similar. Dr. Schildknecht never mentioned an inhibitor, but he did notice how the hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide explode only when a third chemical, an enzyme, is added to the reaction.

The other claim about how the chambers were possibly useless comes from the ideas of Richard Lumsden. He realized how if even one part of the mechanism was missing, the chemicals and chambers would be useless. With this in mind, he concluded that gradual evolution cannot be what formed the mechanisms due to all the parts needing to evolve together, a concept he calls “irreducible complexity.” Dr. Henry Richter even included that “no offspring would see the light of day” if everything did not work “right from the beginning.” This is where a major issue comes into play: all the parts have to have been created at the same time. Because of evolution’s more gradual approach to development, there is not much possibility for everything to “evolve” at once.

The Evolutionist Perspective:

Theories of evolution have been used in science mainly since Charles Darwin wrote and published his book about continual evolution back in 1859. With much research accumulated over the years, it is hard to reject these ideas when such a phenomenal discovery is made.

According to National Geographic, biologists have been able to use the idea that the inhibitors and anti-inhibitors are enzymes, specifically catalase and peroxidase, to prove that evolution did occur “incrementally.” Enzymes are known to undergo evolution, and it is being suggested that the enzymes gradually grew stronger for the reaction to occur. Other scientists, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, saw how hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide do not explode when mixed together. Instead, the two chemicals combine to form a brown mixture without an explosion of any kind.

Additionally, the hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide may have been collected through evolution. What makes it possible is that quinones are naturally created in many arthropods. In fact, this chemical is what makes several of these bugs smell or taste unappetizing to a predator, which means this chemical can be naturally occurring in many species. Hydrogen peroxide, too, is a by-product of metabolism in cells. From this, evolutionists understand that the chemicals being stored in the bombardier beetle are not surprising as other creatures have the same chemicals. Additionally, ducts and chemical reservoirs are rather commonly seen in many different bugs in order for the transport and collection of chemicals to occur. The walls of these chambers and mechanisms were able to harden over time to produce the modern-day bombardier beetle with its strong abilities once thought to be impossible.

The Neutral Perspective:

On one hand, people argue that the gradual development of the bombardier beetle is impossible, and on the other hand, people reason that the parts evolved gradually. Between these two arguments, there may be a common ground.

People do believe that the bombardier beetle, among other organisms, may have been created by a Divine Power and later have undergone a random evolutionary process in what is called the theistic approach. Creationists, Darwinists, and those with the theistic approach differ in their ideas of the role of God. However, one thing will always stay certain: the Bombardier Beetle and its relatives have a unique defense system which makes for interesting scientific breakthroughs.