Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tiger Beetle

Here’s a beetle that will really catch your eye. Most often encountered on hiking trails in open woods, this Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, glows in the sunlight like a miniature Christmas tree light. When disturbed, it runs or flies a short way down the path. This has got to be the most recognized of the various Tiger Beetle species.

I found this beetle on a trail in the middle of the field. Instead of running or flying, it tried to hide beneath plant leaves. It hid like a child, burying its head and leaving its rear end sticking out. A little prodding got it to come out where I could get a few shots.

I wonder if he was the original model for bug eyes. He certainly looks like the bug eyed monsters from the early horror movies. Eyes like this are a necessity for a predatory species such as the Tiger Beetle. The Tiger Beetle hunts other insects and is quite accomplished at the task. It is also hunted itself by other predatory species. The bubble eyes give it a 360 degree view of its surroundings, so it can watch for predators as well as prey.

I love this guy’s jaws. A matched pair of sharp sickle like mandibles are used to grab and hold prey. The mandibles are so long they have to be folded across each other when closed. Once captured, I doubt any small insect could break the Tiger Beetle’s strong hold.

Spring is the time of year to see this species. The adults are busy mating and laying eggs and will all be dead by mid summer. Hatching larvae create burrows in the ground in which they will live for one or more years before emerging as adults. If you should encounter this species while out walking, take some time to get a close look. It’s well worth the effort.


  1. Very nice shots, Steve! I spotted one last week in exactly the type of habitat you describe: an open trail in the woods. It was sitting on a rock and stood out like a sore thumb, but I only caught a quick glimpse before it flew off and I lost it in the gree undergrowth. Unmistakable nontheless.

  2. What an interesting little guy---green right down to his legs and a few white spots--and those eyes!!! His claws are a little creepy,but as long as I'm bigger than Him ---great benefit for him though!!! Great photo's Steve!! :>

  3. I love these beetles! I encountered one last spring on a rock near our creek. They truly are spectacular. I love your close-ups, showing the hairs on the legs. And those pinching mandibles? Yikes!

  4. TGIQ - Thanks. This is the first time I've ever found a Tiger Beetle that would stay still long enough for me to get some shots.

    grammie g - I'm pretty sure you would win against the beetles. Their secret strategy is to jump at your legs, hoping you'll trip when you try to get away. If they get on top of you, it's all over.

    Heather - These guys are really a treat to see when they sit in an open sunny spot. This is the best time of the year to see them, so watch for that sparkle of green when you're out.