Vol. 14 Issue 4,Winter 2009
By Mary Lopresti
The six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) is one of over 100 species of tiger beetles found in North America. About 2,000 species of tiger beetles occur worldwide. Many species of tiger beetles are bright colored and metallic with various patterns of cream-colored markings or spots; other tiger beetles have camouflage. The six-spotted tiger beetle has a green-blue metallic color and can have anywhere from 4 to 6 spots or none at all.
Most tiger beetles are active during sunny days; however some beetles are nocturnal. They can be found near bodies of water or in habitats with sandy to clay soil. Tiger beetles predominantly live in the burrow they hatched from or near that area. The female tiger beetle digs a tiny hole in which she lays a single egg. After hatching, the larva enlarges the crevice that the female created during egg-laying and develops a burrow.
When a suitable insect or arthropod passes by the burrow, the larva uses its long hook-shaped mandibles to grab onto its prey and pull it into the burrow. Its mandibles secrete an enzyme that the tiger beetle uses to digest its prey. Other hook-like body appendages on the beetle’s back act as an anchor, preventing large prey from pulling it out of its burrow. Climatic stresses like drought or floods can affect food availability, which can strongly affect the development of the beetle larvae and even lead to starvation.
Tiger beetles are very quick runners and agile flyers. If bitten by one, the enzymes may cause an irritating sting. Remaining motionless upon encountering a tiger beetle is the best way to observe this pretty, undersized predator in its natural habitat.
A field guide to the tiger beetles of the United States and Canada …
By David L. Pearson, C. Barry Knisley, Charles J. Kazilek (page 8)