Bombardier Beetles are ground beetles (Carabidae) in the tribes Brachinini, Paussini, Ozaenini, or Metriini—more than 500 species altogether—that are most notable for the defense mechanism that gives them their name: They can fire a mixture of chemicals from special glands in their abdomen.
Bombardier beetles store two separate chemicals (hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide). When they are threatened, the two chemicals are squirted through two tubes, where they are mixed along with small amounts of catalytic enzymes and undergo a violent exothermic chemical reaction. The boiling, foul-smelling liquid partially becomes a gas (flash evaporation) and is expelled with a loud popping sound.
Secretory cells produce hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide (and perhaps other chemicals, depending on the species), which collect in a reservoir. The reservoir opens through a muscle-controlled valve onto a thick-walled reaction chamber. This chamber is lined with cells that secrete catalases and peroxidases. When the contents of the reservoir are forced into the reaction chamber, the catalases and peroxidases rapidly break down the hydrogen peroxide and catalyze the oxidation of the hydroquinones into p-quinones.
These reactions release free oxygen and generate enough heat to bring the mixture to the boiling point and vaporize about a fifth of it. Under pressure of the released gasses, the valve is forced closed, and the chemicals are expelled explosively through openings at the tip of the abdomen. Each time it does this it shoots about 70 times very rapidly. The damage caused can be fatal to attacking insects and small creatures and is painful to human skin.