The Streaked Bombardier Beetle (Brachinus sclopeta) was presumed extinct in the UK after an absence of 75 years, but has been found in two London locations, including Mile End Park, since 2006, suggesting that there could be more populations in the London area. Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, is keen to find more sites for this rare insect, and is asking people in east London to keep a look out for it. It is important to find out where the species is hanging on, as so many London brownfield sites are due to be lost to development.
The species is between 4.5 and 7.5mm in length with metallic blue/green wing cases (elytra) with a narrow orange/red head and thorax. It also has a distinctive red dash along its back, that confirms it as a Streaked Bombardier, as opposed to the closely-related Common Bombardier (Brachinus crepitans) which has plain blue/green wing cases. Like all bombardier beetles, it possess a remarkable but effective defence mechanism where a boiling chemical spray is released from the tip of its flexible abdomen, with an audible explosive sound!
It is likely to be found in or near piles of rubble and loose material, hiding in nooks and crannies, often associated with brownfield habitats.
Buglife would love to hear from you if you think you have seen this remarkable insect, or even better, send them a photo! Contact Jamie Robins by e-mail or call on 01733 201210.
Photo: Streaked Bombardier Beetle by John Archer