Monday: Hili dialogue (and bombardier beetle tweet)

October 21, 2019 • 7:32 am

by Matthew Cobb

Jerry is beginning his long journey south, towards the frozen Antarctic. I am posting the Hili dialogues each morning, and maybe some other stuff. This is sad, because in the past Grania would do this.

Out in Poland, Hili is watchful:

Hili: I’m afraid.
A: What of?
Hili: That the situation beyond the horizon is similar to the one here.
Hili: Obawiam się.
Ja: Czego?
Hili: Że za horyzontem jest podobnie jak tutaj.
And just one tweet today:

Watch the video with the sound on. This is a bombardier beetle, producing incredibly hot acidic explosions out of its bum. Before you start with the fart jokes, this astonishing chemical defence is based on two compounds that are held separately then rapidly brought into contact to create a binary weapon.

35 thoughts on “Monday: Hili dialogue (and bombardier beetle tweet)

    1. +1, my sentiment, too, Mr Batterson.

      I happen to deal poorly with
      some deaths … … I am thinking.
      Thank you for your contributions, Dr Cobb.


  1. I seem to recall the bombardier beetle used to be a favourite of the Creationsts (or was that Intelligent Designers).

    As in, how could a beetle who knows nothing of chemistry evolve such a weapon?

    I’m pretty sure someone will have worked it out.


    1. Yes. Just going to make a similar comment. I even remember a Creationist/ID comic strip devoted to “Bombie,” the little bug that was a walking, spraying refutation of Darwin.

      1. Bomby the Bombardier Beetle by Hazel May Rue [likely not a real person], illustrated by Sandy Thornton. A 40-page children’s book published by the Institute of Creationist Research 35 years ago. Just the one printing & not available at the ICR site these days – I imagine ICR grew tired of being laughed at.

        Too wordy for an illustrated kid’s book. Not gripping or amusing at any age.

          1. It’s going cheap on most of the Amazons, both new & used, so that’s the time to start collecting – some thing that nobody else collects today, but I’d not buy from religitards obviously. Also you’d need a strongroom to contain the stink of noxious lies. 🙂

      2. Not to mention it being used as a rationalization for believing that fire-breathing dragons could have been real.

    2. Yes, it is an old argument of creationists, less used now than some years ago. You can look at “Claim CB310” in the Index to Creationist Claims of TalkOrigins archives for a rebuttal.

    3. A weird argument. They could also ask how could any species, who knows nothing about chemistry, evolve such an immensely complex biochemical machinery inside each cell.

      1. Guys, flatulence is a fascinating phenomenon, well worth studying; it has important historical value and is definitely not to be sniffed at.

        1. In another day and time I would have pounced upon, and rather gleefully at that, the gauntlet which you have tossed down. Perhaps after a few shots of Vodka, I would be up to the challenge. Nevertheless I concede that you are far more clever than am I.

    1. As the old R&B song goes: “I second that emotion.”

      We’d be bereft without you and Hili (and hopefully Greg at some point).

    1. They don’t seem to react to it. The terminal abdominal segments swivel to direct the spray so if you suspend a bombardier beetle over indicator paper and tease each leg in succession you will get six distinct spray lines. The spray is pulsed to keep pressures in the mixing chamber within allowable limits. The smell is nasty,the taste is even worse (don’t ask) and it stings something awful if it gets in your eyes.

      Back in 1983 the PBS series Nature aired a program based on the work of Cornell University professor Dr. Tom Eisner that included a lengthy segment about his work with this insect. It was almost as much fun as watching him play with them in his neurobiology classes. The video is long out of print but VHS copies occasionally turn up online.

      1. Looks like the main product is 1,4-benzoquinone. I’m not sure that will melt anything- so it seems the real affect is the heat and noxious quinone, irritating- but Wikipedia says they can kill in some scenarios, so I’m not sure.

        I also wonder how many other animals have this configuration of spraying chemical reaction defense.

    1. Yeah, it’s a very cool word and one that I think can be extended metaphorically to a variety of things.

      Hypergolly! to hypergolic

    2. Yes a fine word indeed. I can remember learning about it during the early days of the space race. The Mercury astronauts had hypergolic attitude thrusters on their space craft. I believe its still used today. dinitrogen tetroxide plus hydrazine. Since they ignite when mixed, they can be reliably turned off and on like a garden hose. Very handy for attitude control.

      The bombardier beetle uses hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide. While the mixture does not ignite, the heat from the reaction brings the mixture to near the boiling point of water and produces gas that drives the ejection. It’s a miracle.

  2. “The Bombardier Beetle, when disturbed
    Defends itself by emitting a series of explosions
    Sometimes setting off four or five reports in succession
    The noises sound like miniature popgun blasts
    And are accompanied by a cloud of reddish-coloured, vile-smelling fluid”

    from “Army Ants” by Tom Waits, which ends as follows:

    “… And as we discussed last semester, the Army Ants will leave nothing but your bones
    Perhaps you’ve encountered some of these insects in your communities
    Displaying both their predatory and defense characteristics
    While embedded within the walls of flesh and passing for
    What is most commonly recognized
    As human.”

  3. Off topic, but is everyone else having trouble accessing the “Two by Randy Travis” post? I wanted to post a comment but can get only “Not Found.” What gives?

  4. I do recall seeing a video on some natural history doco, of how some shrew(?) dealt with bombardier beetles – the shrew(?) just picked it up and jammed it firmly in the ground rump-first and then started eating from the top down…


    1. That’s from the Secret Weapons video mentioned above under Post 6. Thomas Eisner, again. The beetle is Eleodes, one of the darkling beetles (Tebrionidae) and they don’t really spray, they just exude quinones. The predator was a grasshopper mouse (Onychomys).

      1. That’s pretty remarkable. Just imagine the decades, centuries, and millennia that went into that evolutionary process.

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