Tuesday, April 7

In Search Of The Pétomane

7th April
The Coleopterist stayed with us for a few days, he is reknowned for his uncanny ability to find bugs, previously he has supplied us with potter wasps and female earwigs sitting on batches of eggs. We have been searching fruitlessly for the bombardier beetle, an extraordinary beast who keeps two gases in separate chambers in it’s back end, when expelled they combine to make a hot smelly explosion (This is no ordinary fart – there is actually smoke). Thermodynamics scientists have long been trying to mimic the bombardier’s mechanism and there’s also a side story going on with this creature being used to support the creationist argument (mentioned in the two previous links – so I’m not going there).

The Coleopterist spent his first day searching for the bombardier in nearby forests without any luck, then just before supper, while wandering around at the back of the Lovely House he happened across a colony of the shiny green and brown beetles on a weedy bit of broken-up concrete.

These were a smaller variety of bombardier than the ones we were hoping to find, but it was still a result. There was a suitable set ready in the studio so we put one of the beetles on stage to see if he’d perform for us, it was all getting really fiddly and we were just about despairing that we’d never make it work when we noticed a really nice large species of bombardier wandering around on the studio floor.

During his stay, The Coleopterist collected lots of insects including two queen hornets hibernating in bits of rotting log. All these animals are now in the fridge, the hornets still in their logs with an elastic band keeping the bits bound together, the rest neatly stored with a piece of damp tissue in screw-top pots. The cold makes them snooze, then they don’t waste energy running around trying to escape, care for sleeping insects is simple, the jars have to be opened to allow a fresh supply of air in and the damp tissue changed once a week

*The bombardier beetle has only a superficial similarity to French music hall performer le pétomane but I can’t get his image out of my head.


  1. Wow, I want a farting beetle. I realise that this is hardly an indepth appreciation of the natural world, but I shall look at beetles with renewed interest from now on.

  2. i swear, sugar! this had me rolling! i had to visit the link of course, and then movie loon that i/we are the natural segue was to blazing saddles and mel brooks! thank you for this great laugh!!

  3. The beetle's equipment immediately brought to mind hypergolic propellants and nozzles used in spacecraft!

  4. hmmm...that will be useful to take to a boring baby shower or wedding reception!!

  5. I'm assuming your bug show is filmed in Smell-o-vision? Odorama?

  6. I went to high school with a guy like that Bombardier Beetle.

    Actually the Creationists do not have an "argument" because their entire preposterous proposition is based on pure nonsense rather than pure science.

    Case in point this idiot and the his explanation of the Atheist's nightmare..the Banana!


    Now had I not seen Nick Gisburne's rebuttal I may have been swayed so Thank Gawd for Gisburne!


  7. in my tiny mind, all of your neighbours sport cravats, even the women, and the men wear their hair in powdered ponytails.

    i love your bug tales.

  8. Madame DeFarge - The farts are just the start, once one starts looking at beetles they are truly amazing.

    savannah - who can forget that scene in blazing saddles?

    The beetle's equipment immediately brought to mind hypergolic propellants and nozzles used in spacecraft!
    I knew a boy like you would immediately see who else has been nicking tricks off the Bombardier

    Roshni -
    a boring baby shower or wedding reception!!

    Are there interesting ones then?

    Bill - I'm assuming your bug show is filmed in Smell-o-vision? Odorama?
    Kind of, we'll give out scratch 'n' sniff cards with the dvd. In cinemas we'll let off rockets.

    Hey Donn - that was one of your school photos that I used for the pic, hope you don't mind.
    I'm with you on the Creationists thing - but they give us a lugh don't they?

    Hi projectivist - the cravats and ponytails are possibly an exaggerated image - it's only the men dress like that

  9. So God designed a beetle with an explosive fart. You've gotta love these Creationists. I am glad to hear you are making use of local insects rather than having them all flown in. It will make the film more authentic.

  10. Gorilla - I'm being told off by The Director for emphasizing the brought-in insects, so I'll be going on a bit about the locals next post.

  11. I'd heard about this beetle but hadn't realised that it was quite so sophisticated. Bill's right, you've just got to film this one in something like Odorama!

  12. I'm a little concerned about the mention of hornets... actually I'm scared stiff. I too have come eye to eye with a hornet Queen.
    Typical though, that what you were looking for just walked into the studio, a stage-struck farting beetle.

  13. My god- there is smoke?! That is unreal, does he get a little boost forward from his jet power or is just for laughs?

  14. Gadjo - I want Odorama installed as part of my home entertainment system - oozing out of the walls to create atmosphere instead of all that coffee bean roasting I do at the moment - shame that at the moment the experience is limited to scratch cards.

    Scarlet - Don't be scared of the hornets they are lovely sweet things.

    Can we think of any other farting show offs?

    Daisy - there is smoke, and it's a deadly weapon - no laughing if you're on the wrong end

  15. Images came to mind of a couple of Aubrey Beardsley prints - figures flaunt their flatulently inflated flout, discharging at flagrant foes in flumination....

  16. Hornets? sweet things? You certainly are jesting young Lulu

  17. Until a few years ago I'd never seen a hornet. Now we see them daily in summer. I've never seen a queen as far as I know, but the ordinary ones are about the size of a Dinky toy and have a wicked sense of humour when I'm in the bath. Gentle they may be but (as one whose metabolism behaves strangely when stung), I'd hate to have an argument with one.
    (Got totally side-tracked by Donn Coppens' recommended videos, and related ones like 'Peanut Butter, the Atheist's Nightmare'. These guys must have had lobotomies.

  18. I've always enjoyed Haldane's famous quote, The Creator, if he exists, has an inordinate fondness for stars and beetles".

    I would tweak that a bit to say that Mother Nature certainly does. Beetles are definitely one of her all-time favorite critters.

  19. deb - figures flaunt their flatulently inflated flout, discharging at flagrant foes in flumination....
    Did Beardsley really write that or have you been round at Madame DeFarge's site?

    Frenchie - The labels will link you to my revelation about the loveliness of hornets - it's true.

    Brother T - Hornets are not really aggressive, but they're not great at flying so they are more likely to bump into you by accident. We filmed a nest last year without incident despite the fact that a farmer threw a rcok at it just before we arrived and every single French person warned us that 3 stings from a hornet will kill a man

    I Got totally side-tracked by Donns recommended videos too - Creationists are very funny

    Donn - you are too erudite - I've got to go and look that up now. x

  20. I was going to say that the image reminds me of Mr Coppens but I see we've covered that here already in the comments.

    I need to get here earlier from now on.

    Oh Hai XL!

  21. By the time this film is completed all us regular readers will be "coleopterists" or, do I mean, "cleopatras"? And where have all the professional farting acts gone? France?

  22. Beetles are splendid things. I'd love to see a bombadier beetle in real life (at a suitable distance with a good slab of glass between us).

    Are you going to be doing ant lions? (he said, trying not to sound too excited)

  23. Could you not train them into a variety act, like Le Pétomane? After all, there were flea circuses once upon a time. I'm sure Graham Norton would pay handsomely to have them on his show.

  24. MJ - Party starts here early darlin'

    KSV - did you used to have many farting acts up in Vermont - ar you sorry they've gone?

    Hi Kev - I have indeed got my eye on a pride of ant lions outside our back door, not sure if we'll be filming them though

    Auty - I have enough problems training the humans and there is enough hot air around Graham Norton as it is


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