Tiger Beetles Tiny Terrors

In Plain English: What you always wanted to know about Tiger Beetles (and then some)

Scientific name: Cicindela ocellata rectilatera Chaudoir

Localities: Tiger beetles can be found everywhere! Caves, marshes, forests, desert, salt lands, seashores, lakes, rivers, streams, sand hills. Found in most U.S. States and many other countries.

Food sources: Tiger Beetles feed on live prey. Mainly flies, worms, ants and termites.

Number of species: approximately 2,300

Size: Range from about 6 millimeters (size of a horsefly) to about 45 Millimeters (tea bag)

General Information:

Tiger beetles are a favorite among insect collectors. The wide variety of colors and sizes make their appeal even greater. They are called the “beauty queens of the insect world” because of the wide color variety. They can be black, maroon, metallic green, and purple. Many are decorated with spots or stripes. They can be easily recognized by their armor like forewings.

Tiger Beetles have excellent eyesight and sickle like jaws. They normally crush their prey upon capture. Both the adults and the larvae are excellent predators. Larvae dig burrows and wait for their prey. Adults are very fast (averaging 5.6 MPH or 170 body lengths per hour) and quickly run or fly away when approached. Once the Tiger Beetle catches its prey, it normally crushes it, and then tears it into pieces. Then, they expel powerful digestive juices onto the pieces, partially melting them. They then roll the goo into something resembling a meatball and consumes it. Although their jaws are strong enough to do all of this, biting a human inflicts only a pinch of pain, if that.

The Beetles have a 6 week life span. The first three of their 4 life stages are as egg, larvae, and pupa. Once out of the egg stage and into the larvae stage, they begin to seek prey. Soon after they emerge as adults, they begin mating. Adult female Tiger Beetles can lay 4 eggs a day. They may mate with several different Males. The last stage of their lives normally occurs (in the US) between late June and late July. There is a lot of living and preying to get into this short time span.

The biggest threat to the Tiger Beetle is the human. Many of the species which live on sandy beaches are killed if not by foot, then by ATV’s and other beach vehicles. The forest species are killed often by fires. They are considered endangered in many places. In Missouri, for instance, to catch and collect the Tiger Beetle, you must have a wildlife collector’s permit.

In the insect world, the Tiger Beatle would be a ferocious beast. Although, to humans, they are interesting, relatively harmless and highly collectible.