Tiger beetles (order Coleptera) are a diverse group. They are found in most parts of the world, with the exception of only some of the most remote regions. In America alone, there are at least 100 different species- 36 different species can be found in the state of Arizona.
On average, they are about a half an inch in length. Some species are rather drab to look at, being black or grayish in color. Some have spots or other markings for camouflage, others do not. The most striking insects are those that have a brilliant metallic blue, green, violet, or bronze sheen. They look like little jewels scurrying along the ground!
Tiger beetles are usually found where there is an abundance of sun (which many like, while others hide away from it. Still other species are nocturnal) and sand. Shorelines, river banks, desert or semi-desert areas and open areas are ideal for their habitat.
Like many other animals, some tiger beetles are threatened or endangered because of habitat destruction. Certain species may be limited to only their local area, and when their natural habitat is gone, they go with it.
Tiger beetles get their name not from any physical similarity to the big cats, but rather from their prowess in hunting skills. Like feline tigers, they stalk and ambush their prey, which usually consists of other insects or similar-sized creatures.
A tiger beetle is a very fast mover. They are long-legged and can run and overtake most of their prey by speed alone. Additionally they can fly when inclined, and have very good eyesight, making them an alpha predator of the insect world.
They will hide out and wait for unsuspecting prey to wander by, and then ambush it. The beetle then grabs its prey with its very strong sickle-like mandibles (jaws) and consumes its meal on the spot, or it may drag it off to a safer place, where the beetle doesn’t have to worry about being picked off by birds or other threats.
Surprisingly, even the larvae of this fearsome predator acts much the same as an adult tiger beetle. The larvae will dig a burrow to hide in, and when the opportunity comes along, again in the form of some clueless bug or creature that gets too close to the hideout, the larva will spring out of its lair and pounce, dragging its victim into the burrow and eating it.
As you can see, tiger beetles are terrifying to other insects- but harmless to humans. They are, in fact, beneficial- helping to keep pests under control. It is in our own best interest, as well as theirs, to see that they survive.