The six-spotted tiger beetle is a fascinating and striking insect that you might encounter during your outdoor adventures. These metallic green, sometimes blue beetles, are known for their long legs, large sickle-shaped mandibles, and large bulging eyes. As their name suggests, they typically have six white spots at the edges of their elytra (wing covers), although the number of spots can vary.
These agile beetles belong to the larger group of tiger beetles, which are predatory in both their adult and larval stages. Most of the 2,760 tiger beetle species live on the ground, swiftly running and stopping in search of tiny insects and spiders as their prey. When observing these fascinating creatures, you might notice them darting in and out of trails, showcasing their fast-running and fast-flying behavior.
To maximize your chances of spotting six-spotted tiger beetles, keep an eye out for them in flat, open habitats. Many species are found along the edges of muddy or sandy rivers, lakes, and oceans, while others prefer sunny openings on forest floors, salt flats, alpine meadows, or sand dunes. So the next time you’re outdoors, pay attention to these unique environments and you might just discover the remarkable six-spotted tiger beetle.
The Six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) is known for its metallic green color, which can sometimes appear blue. These beetles are also recognized by the white spots on their elytra (wing covers). Typically, they have six spots, but the number can vary – some may have two or four spots instead of six 1.
In addition to their distinct colors, Six-spotted tiger beetles showcase impressive anatomical features. Here are some notable characteristics:
- Long legs: These enable the beetle to run and capture prey efficiently.
- Sickle-shaped mandibles: These large, curved mouthparts are used as both defensive and hunting tools.
- Large eyes: The beetle’s bulging eyes give it superior vision, which aids in locating prey and avoiding predators 1.
With these unique physical traits, the Six-spotted tiger beetle is a fascinating species to observe or study.
Habitat and Distribution
Ranges in North America
The Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle can be found throughout much of North America, including the United States and parts of Canada. Specifically, their range extends from Minnesota to Ontario and from Rhode Island to Kentucky. However, their presence in Florida is less common due to different habitat preferences.
These tiger beetles thrive in various habitats such as forests, especially deciduous forests. They are attracted to sandy patches, shade, and forest floors. You may also find them near rocks, which provide shelter and hiding spots for hunting prey. Here are some key features of their habitats:
- Deciduous forests
- Sandy patches with loose soil
- Shaded areas, often near trees or rocks
- Forest floors with plenty of leaf litter and branches
When exploring forests and other natural settings, keep an eye out for these distinctive metallic green beetles as they move quickly through their habitats in search of food and mates. Remember, these beetles are fast runners and may stop abruptly if they need to process their fast-changing surroundings. Enjoy observing them and learn more about their fascinating behaviors!
From Egg to Larvae
Six Spotted Tiger Beetles lay their eggs one at a time in tiny holes in the soil. As a result, it’s easier for the larvae to find food. When these eggs hatch, the tiny larvae emerge and immediately begin to dig small tunnels near the soil surface.
- Females deposit eggs in the soil
- Larvae emerge from the eggs and dig tunnels
Larvae to Pupa
The larval stage is crucial for the Six Spotted Tiger Beetle’s development, as it involves metamorphosis. During this stage, the larvae go through three instars, meaning they shed their skin twice. When they reach the third instar, they enter the pupal stage.
- First instar: initial growth and development
- Second instar: continued growth and development
- Third instar: preparing for the pupal stage
After the pupal stage, the transformed adult Six Spotted Tiger Beetle emerges ready to live its adult life. Adult beetles are usually found in open areas where they can easily hunt for prey. They’re known for their incredible speed and agility, making them efficient predators.
- Adult features:
- Metallic green with six white spots
- Strong and agile hunters
Remember to always respect and admire these fascinating creatures from a distance to ensure their life cycle can continue uninterrupted.
Diet and Hunting Strategy
Six Spotted Tiger Beetles are carnivorous insects, which means they feed on other smaller insects. Some examples of their prey are:
These beetles play a vital role in managing insect populations, as they control the number of potential pests in the ecosystem.
To catch their prey, Six Spotted Tiger Beetles rely on their exceptional hunting skills. Their speed and agility make them one of the most efficient predators in the insect world. The beetle’s tactics include:
- Ambushing prey: They hide and wait for the perfect opportunity to strike.
- Chasing: They run down their prey with incredible speed, making it difficult for the victim to escape.
So, when you come across a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, keep in mind that you’re witnessing one of nature’s most skilled hunters in action.
Natural Predators and Defense Mechanisms
The Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) has a variety of defense mechanisms to protect itself from predators. One of these is their speed. They are known for their agility and can quickly escape from potential threats.
Another defense mechanism is their painful bite. If cornered, the beetle can administer a strong bite with its large, sickle-shaped mandibles. This can cause pain and discomfort to potential predators, giving the beetle a chance to escape.
The Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle faces numerous predators in its natural habitat. Some common predators include:
- Birds: Various bird species will prey on these beetles, taking advantage of their keen eyesight to spot them among vegetation.
- Small mammals: Rodents and other small mammals are known to consume these beetles as part of their diet.
It’s important to remember that, despite their defense mechanisms, the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle can still be vulnerable to predators. However, their remarkable speed and biting ability can help them evade potential threats, playing a crucial role in their survival in the wild.
Conservation Status and Importance in Ecosystem
Six-spotted tiger beetles are not currently considered threatened or endangered species. They are quite commonly found in various areas, including gardens and trails. As a result, you will likely come across these fascinating arthropods in your outdoor adventures.
Role in Ecosystem
These insects play a crucial role in maintaining the balance within their ecosystem. They are predators that feed on other insects, including pests like the emerald ash borer, which can be harmful to plants if left unchecked. By controlling the populations of these pests, six-spotted tiger beetles contribute to the wellbeing of the plant life in their environment.
In addition, six-spotted tiger beetles serve as a food source for other arthropods and animals in their ecosystem. They are part of the food chain, so their presence is essential to the overall health of the ecosystem they inhabit.
By keeping these insects in your garden, you can enjoy the benefits they provide to the environment. Gardeners, scientists, and insect enthusiasts alike appreciate the role they play in maintaining the balance in their habitats.
Fun Facts and Additional Insights
Did you know that the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) is not only known for its striking metallic green color but also for its unique hunting strategy as a carnivorous insect?
A few interesting features about this beetle include:
- Metallic green, sometimes blue, color
- Six white spots on wing covers (though number of spots can vary)
- Large sickle-shaped mandibles
- Wide range of sizes, from 0.5 to 1.75 inches
- Lifespan of 2-3 years
When you’re observing them in the wild, you might come across these beetles during the day, as they’re diurnal. They typically prefer woodland edges and can be found on logs, rocks, or the ground, often lurking in the shade.
Here’s a comparison of the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle with other tiger beetles:
|Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle
|Other Tiger Beetles
|0.5 to 1.75 inches
|Six white spots
|Family & Subfamily
You can use resources like BugGuide or a field guide to help identify and distinguish tiger beetle species. Be mindful that tiger beetles are part of a much larger family of beetles, Carabidae, which contains around 40,000 species worldwide.
During winter months, the adult Six-Spotted Tiger Beetles burrow into the soil to hibernate. As the temperature rises, they emerge again, ready for a new season of hunting and reproduction.
So next time you’re exploring the outdoors during the warmer months, keep an eye out for this fascinating little predator and appreciate the natural beauty it contributes to our environment.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Turquoise colored beetle
Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 8:23 AM
On Saturday 4/25/09 at 11:30 A.M. while hiking in the decidious woods of the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, I saw this pretty beetle sitting on a log by itself in the middle of an upland woods. It did exhibit any unusual behavior and it just sat there letting me take this picture.
Can you tell me what this is ?
The temp in the woods was 80 degrees and clear, with very little humidity
Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois
This is a Tiger Beetle in the genus Cicindela. We believe it is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, even though your photo reveals eight spots. This is a variable species and we did locate one image on BugGuide with markings nearly identical to your individual. Tiger Beetles are fierce predators. Several species of Tiger Beetles are endangered because of habitat loss.
Tue, Apr 28, 2009 at 5:17 AM
Thanks very much for the identification….very interesting. It does seem
to me that I have seen a few of these before, and always in deep woods.
They must prefer deep woods. As far as habitat loss, at least the woods
where I saw this one is an 80-acre tract of woods that has been in my family
for 20 years and will probably remain in the family.
Letter 2 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Location: Green Valley Forest Preserve [Illinois]
April 4, 2012 6:53 pm
While riding my bike on April 2, i saw hundreds of these bright green bugs along a 6 mile stretch of gravel pathway. What might this be?
Signature: Jesse S
We needed to look up Green Valley Forest Preserve to learn it is in the state of Illinois. Though the number of spots varies from individual to individual, this beauty is nonetheless called a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle. It is an adept hunter that runs quickly and also flies quite well.
Letter 3 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
This beautiful photo of a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle arrived with no question or comment.
Sorry WTB = what’s that bug. I see them lite around and chase flies and go after ants. They are very aggressive towards insects. But timid towards people. They have a beautiful metallic green color! Very unique. Also I saw others on your Beatles page 8. (but my picture is the best!) I live in Fairfax, Virginia. Thank you I hope to go out and take a bunch of pictures of bugs this summer and send them in. GREAT ONES I want to get posted!
Letter 4 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Once again your site helped with an identification (Beetles page 4)! Over the past few weeks these have been numerous in damp wooded areas of Columbia, MD. I do have a few questions about them. Are these blister beetles? Are the wings clear? Thank you,
Your beetle is Cicindela sexguttata, the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle. Beetles have two sets of wings. The elytra are metallic green the the membraneous flying wings are hidden from view.
Letter 5 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Green Metalic Bug
We need help! Do you know what this bug is?
Nice photo of a Tiger Beetle. Eric Eaton has provided the species: ” The tiger beetle (the metallic green one, anyway), is Cicindela sexguttata, the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle.”
Letter 6 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Green metallic beetle
Hi again, We have these beetles all around this year again. They run real fast and fly. Could not find in the beetle section, can you help? Thanks again,
We have several images of Six Spotted Tiger Beetles, Cicindela sexguttata, that we have posted over the years. They are buried in our nine beetle pages. Using our search engine and the key words green metallic beetle should have taken you to the correct pages.
Letter 7 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Help me identify this little green beetle
Up here in Ohio everyone is watching out for the emerald ash borer. Several friends have brought this little devil to my attention. I’ve assured them it’s not the emerald ash but I expect it is in the borer family since it is often seen on fallen trees. Spotted this fella today when I was cutting wood. We’ve had four days in the 70’s so he probably just hatched. Please help me name this fella so I can tell my friends, I would estimate he’s just under an inch long. His green is very irridescent.
Montgomery County Ohio Pic Taken 3-27-07 Fuji 9000
We hope harmless predators like your lovely Six Spotted Tiger Beetle are not being squished, smashed and swatted in a case of mistaken identity. Tiger Beetles are highly prized by collectors for their beauty. They are fierce hunters that run and fly quite well.
Letter 8 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
I found this gorgeous little beetle sunning himself on my walkway in NE Illinois. He was about 3/4" long. It looks like a tiger beetle, but I thought you might be able to use another one for your archives. Thanks,
This is indeed a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, which can have more than six spots or even no spots.
Letter 9 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Metallic Green Beetle
I found many of these under the bark of a fallen and decaying pine tree. I was looking for skinks, and found these bugs. I’ve never seen them before. They seem to be present wherever there were termites. They were about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long, moved quickly, and took off like a fly when you got to close. Any ideas? BTW, these are from southeastern Virginia.
Newport News, VA
This is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, a predatory species. We are not certain if the termite colony is a food source, or if the beetles were there for another reason.
Letter 10 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
What is this Bug?
I take photos professionally as a freelance stock photographer…I also have a "CREEPY CRAWLER" exhibit that I show gratis at local elementary schools which has been a great hit. I would like to include this bug, but I can’t ID it, can you? It would be a great help to me and the kids would enjoy looking at the bug in a large macro format. This incredibly beautiful bug has been hanging around our water garden and several times I have tried to shoot it, but was only able to when I found it in a pail of water. It flies! I want to put it in my bug photo exhibit which travels to elementary schools. I live in Wenham, MA. Many thanks,
Susan Van Etten
This is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata.
Letter 11 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
What’s this bug?
Yesterday, while walking along the forest road around the bend from our house in the North Georgia mountains, I saw the movement of this green fellow running across the road. I just got my macro lens the day before and I’m not yet practiced at snapping up close. What can
This little beauty is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, both a quick runner and a quick flier. You took a great photo despite not having had time to practice with your new lens.
Letter 12 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Is this a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle?
Mon, May 18, 2009 at 1:30 PM
I was digging in by backyard today when I came across this beautiful beetle. After looking through some Field Guides I guess it may be a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, but on of them said that they usually don’t occur in Michigan. I was hoping you could shed some light on what I found. It seemed to have been underground next to a nest of larvae feeding on a mouse or rat i dug out.
Port Sanilac, MI
Dear O. Keller,
We believe you have correctly identified your Six Spotted Tiger Beetle. According to the data on BugGuide, Michigan is firmly part of the range of the species.
Letter 13 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
May 20, 2010
I ran across this beautiful fellow this morning. Had a long lens on the camera so I was able to circle it for photos. I went closer for a better look because I thought it had something in it’s mouth. Unable to get very close, it went from sitting to “warp” speed, in less then a blink it was out of sight. I have “fished” the larva from their holes in the ground and it is hard for me to even imagine such an ugly larva turning into one of these beautiful beetles. (color not his face) Never really looked at one of these before and had no idea what it was…Thanks to you and your website I took the time for a good look and was able to identify it. Thank you once again.
North Middle Tennessee
Letters like yours are the reason we love working on What’s That Bug? so much. Your personal perspective, vivid descriptions and gorgeous photos are a marvelous addition to our website.
Letter 14 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Bright Green Beetle
May 29, 2010
Just a few minutes ago I felt something crawling on my neck. What ever it was it flew and landed on the wall. It turned out to be a vibrantly green beetle and I took a picture. I live in New Hampshire, it is May 29.
Dear Green Beetle,
This is a Tiger Beetle, probably a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle.
Letter 15 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Green Metallic Flying Bug
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA
May 1, 2011 11:34 pm
I see these bugs everywhere in the woods located within a local park. I also see them in blue metallic colors. I have never seen them anywhere other than these woods and would be interested to find out what they are.
This beautiful predator is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, a variable species that is most commonly sighted in the spring. You can read more about it on BugGuide.
Letter 16 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle
Location: Toledo, OH
May 29, 2011 12:51 pm
I can’t help but ponder why the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle has eight spots… Ah well. These guys are out in full force, and I’ve never really seen them so prevalent. I wish I had a better handle on my new macro lens so that they were a bit more sharp and less grainy. Ah well, I’ll get there! Some impressive jaws on this guy.
To make things even more confusing, some individuals of Six Spotted Tiger Beetles have no spots. We feel the quality of your images is perfectly fine.
Letter 17 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Metalic green bug
Location: Southern Illinois
June 2, 2011 7:19 pm
I use your site often to identify bugs and butterflies often. I have sent mystery bugs to you in the past as well. I do a lot of nature photography and I find the insect world a facinating place. Last week end we were hiking in Southern Illinois in Garden of the gods State Park. We kept seeing these bright green bugs on the path. I couldn’t get real close to look, I got a couple pictures that didn’t blur. I am just not sure what catagory to use to identify them. They flew and were very fast on their feet. I was not sure if they were a beetle or not. They were about 3/4 of an inch long. Can you help me identify my green friend?
Signature: Janet Fox
We will be out of the office for a week and we are preparing your photo to post live to our site on June 11. This gem-like beauty is a predatory Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, and we often get identification requests for them in the early spring.
Letter 18 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Location: Toledo, OH
March 19, 2012 5:30 pm
I don’t actually think any tiger beetles around here have six spots; Every one I’ve seen always had eight! Certainly out early this year.
There are also photos on BugGuide of Six Spotted Tiger Beetles, Cicindela sexguttata, that have eight spots. We understand from our relatives in Ohio that the unseasonably warm weather is expected to remain in the 70s all week.
Letter 19 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Location: Newmarket, Ontario
May 6, 2012 10:05 am
Trying to identify this guy – look slike some kind of green beetle?
Though the number of spots is variable, this is known as a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle.
Letter 20 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Subject: Metalic green bug
Location: Southern Illinois and Eastern Kentucky
August 25, 2012 3:59 pm
I find the bug world very facinating. But now I find myself with an ever growing collection of unidentified bugs. I ”shop” around your site, but sometimes I don’t even know where to start. I am not sure if this one is a beetle, or another kind of bug. It was located in Southern Illinois in the late spring. I have seen the same bugs in our area of Eastern Kentucky. It is about 1/2 inch long and can fly. They are very fast and hard to capture on film. I hope this picture is clear enough for an identification.
Signature: Janet Fox
Originally we just sent you a quick identification as we are not able to post all the submissions we receive. Actually, our tiny staff cannot even respond to most requests. We really love the enthusiasm of your letter and the photo is also quite beautiful, so we are giving it a chattier response and posting it. This is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle. They are fast running predators that will quickly take flight if they feel threatened.
Letter 21 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Subject: mystery blue bug
Location: tiverton, rhode island
May 16, 2013 6:31 am
Saw this bug on my deck on tuesday, may 14 and went to get my camera. When i returned it was gone. Saw it again Wednesday, may 15 in a small garden on the rough mulch dead. Perhaps came in on a southerly from some place tropical?
Signature: nature girl
Dear Nature Girl,
The predatory Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, is native to Rhode Island, and Bugguide reports sightings in all states east of Texas. This beautiful beetle runs quite fast and is also capable of flying.
wow! very exciting! thank you! bummer he is now deceased…..will watch for more
Letter 22 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Subject: Green beetle
Location: Montville, ME
May 21, 2013 6:31 am
Found this beetle while hiking in Montville, Maine. I’ve seen these before, but mostly only on mountains!
Signature: Jasmine D.
However did you get this fast running Six Spotted Tiger Beetle to stand still long enough to have photos taken? They are also capable of taking to wing if threatened.
It took me a while, but I picked it up carefully and when I covered it up with my hand it stopped moving for a few seconds, I think maybe the dark threw it off! Thank you! They’re so pretty!
Letter 23 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Subject: Flying Green Devil
Location: Northern Kentucky
May 17, 2017 12:44 pm
I have several of these around my office in Hebron, KY, which is just a few miles away from the Cincinnati Airport. They’re kind of like June Bugs, but I don’t think they are. Would you please let me know what these are? Thank you!
Signature: – Andy
Though your image is quite blurry, it definitely depicts a gorgeous, beneficial, predatory Six Spotted Tiger Beetle.
Letter 24 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, we believe
Subject: Blue/Green Jewel Beetle
Location: Knotts Island, NC
May 7, 2013 10:40 pm
I haven’t been able to find a picture or listing for this beetle. I found it under a board in a field on Knotts Island, NC in April this year. I am not sure I have seen a beetle or bug that was so iridescent. I wonder what the purpose of the coloring would be.
Signature: Rod Mann
We believe this is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, a species that doesn’t necessarily always have six spots. They are predators that run fast and fly even faster.
Daniel…….Thank you. Now I see all the other examples you have and I agree.
Letter 25 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetle: Why are they appearing late in the season???
Metallic green bug
Location: Waterloo, Ontario
August 12, 2011 5:31 pm
Any idea what these are? I saw several of them while walking in the woods on an overcast day. They were 1-2cm long. The bright metallic green colour really made them stand out. It was nice to see more than just mosquitoes!
This is a predatory Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, and we typically get the most identification requests in the spring, though BugGuide does list sightings as late as September and even October. Your multiple sightings this late in the season is significant, though we are not exactly certain how to process that information. Perhaps global climate change is not a myth. The iris and tomatoes were dismal this year in the garden outside our Southern California office after all, and the huajes are currently late.
Letter 26 – Six Spotted Tiger Beetles Mating
Green metallic beetle (?) love
Sat, May 30, 2009 at 4:40 PM
Hi Bugman, we found this handsome green couple on a sunny rock at Great Falls Park in MD (they were so preoccupied that they failed to even notice the garter snake we were watching mere inches away). I’m wondering if they’re borers of some kind since a large dead tree was nearby. Before they became engaged they moved very quickly and even ran over the snake’s back once or twice.Can you tell us what they are?–didn’t have any luck searching “iridescent green” and “metallic green” on the site. (Photo taken by Elizabeth Bouras)
Love the site and the new design. Thanks for your help!
Great Falls, MD, USA
This is a pair of Six Spotted Tiger Beetles, Cicindela sexguttata, a species with a relatively extensive range. According to BugGuide: “In the United States, found over much of the eastern and Great Plains states. Absent from the Gulf Coast area. Range continues into southeastern Canada.”