Tiger Beetle: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

The fascinating world of insects is filled with countless species, each with its own unique traits and abilities. One such insect that captures the interest of many is the tiger beetle. These agile predators are known for their striking appearance and incredible speed, making them a remarkable species to learn about.

Tiger beetles, with approximately 2,760 species, are found in various environments worldwide. As both adults and larvae, they are predatory, continually searching for tiny insects and spiders to devour. Their long legs and quick movements allow them to hunt effectively and even evade predators.

To ensure their survival, tiger beetles have adapted to different habitats by developing unique skills and characteristics. For example, some species are diurnal, hunting during the daytime, while others, like the Carolina Tiger beetle, are nocturnal, preferring to hunt at night. Throughout this article, you will uncover more fascinating details about the various species and characteristics of tiger beetles, growing your understanding of these remarkable insects.

Species: Tiger Beetles Overview

Tiger beetles belong to the Coleoptera order and Carabidae family, specifically the subfamily Cicindelinae. These predatory insects are known for their incredible speed and powerful jaws.

There are around 100 species of tiger beetles in the United States, which can be found in four main genera: Amblycheila, Omus, Megacephala, and Cicindela. To give you an idea of their diversity:

  • Amblycheila species are large, flightless, and nocturnal
  • Omus species inhabit the western United States and are also nocturnal
  • Megacephala species prefer sandy habitats and have a metallic appearance
  • Cicindela species are the most common and can be found in various habitats

Tiger beetles are known for their unique adaptations that make them effective predators:

  • Long, thin legs enable them to move quickly
  • Their large eyes help in detecting prey, even though they can run so fast that their eyes can’t always process images at that speed

Here are some key features of tiger beetles:

  • Predatory as both adults and larvae
  • Can be active during the day or night, depending on the species
  • Fast runners, with some species being the quickest insects in the world

Tiger beetles play an essential role in maintaining the balance in their ecosystem, as they help control insect populations. So, next time you come across one of these fascinating creatures, remember they contribute to the overall health of our environment!

Physical Features

Distinctive Markings and Colors

Tiger beetles are known for their distinctive markings and colors. Their bodies typically exhibit iridescent pigments and striking patterns, which function as camouflage. For example, green tiger beetles have a metallic green color with white spots on their elytra.

Structure and Adaptations

Tiger beetles are well adapted predators. Their head houses large, bulging eyes and powerful mandibles, perfect for catching prey. The thorax of a tiger beetle connects to its long, thin legs that allow them to move quickly. The abdomen is streamlined, aiding in speed and agility.

Legs and Antennae

  • Long legs: provide high speed and agility
  • Thin legs: reduce air resistance during movement
  • Antennae: sensory organs used to detect prey and navigate terrain

Exoskeleton and Wings

The exoskeleton of a tiger beetle serves as a protective shell for their body. This armor-like covering is vital for defense against predators. Beneath the hard exoskeleton are wings, specifically the elytra, which enable flying. These components work together to assist the beetle in its predatory and survival needs.

In conclusion, the physical features of tiger beetles play crucial roles in their predatory behavior and survival. Distinctive markings and colors provide effective camouflage, while their structure and adaptations enable them to excel as predators. The exoskeleton and wings offer protection and locomotion necessary for their continued success in the wild.

Diet and Predatory Habits

Prey and Hunting Techniques

Tiger beetles are predators as both adults and larvae, with a diet mainly composed of small insects and spiders. They are bold hunters, using their excellent running speed to chase down their prey. Their hunting technique involves quickly running, then stopping to spot their target, and running again to catch it.

Food and Foraging

These voracious predators spend most of their time in search of food, be it by running on the ground or flying around. They can often be found in sandy areas, such as river banks or beaches, hunting insects and spiders during daytime or even nighttime.

Adaptations for Hunting

The tiger beetle has some unique adaptations to aid in its hunting. For example, its sickle-like mandibles and powerful jaws enable it to efficiently bite and devour its prey. Moreover, due to its incredible speed, it sometimes becomes momentarily blind while chasing prey. However, this does not deter them from their pursuit, as they swiftly relocate their moving prey after momentarily stopping.

Role in Pest Management

While not primarily recognized as pest control agents, tiger beetles do play a role in managing certain pests due to their predatory nature. By consuming small insects, particularly those that could be harmful to plants and crops, tiger beetles contribute to maintaining ecological balance.

Lifecycle and Reproduction

Eggs and Larvae

Tiger beetles lay their eggs in the soil, often near the entrance of their burrows. After hatching, the larvae live in these burrows and develop a grub-like appearance. These larvae are predators, feeding on other insects and small invertebrates 1.

Your tiger beetle larvae may spend up to four years in this stage, depending on the species 2. During this time, they can fall victim to natural predators, like hister beetles, birds, ants, bee flies, and wasps 3.

From Larva to Adult

Once the larva reaches its third stage, it forms a pupal cell within the burrow4. This process takes place a few inches from the soil surface, and the entrance is plugged for protection while the larva goes through pupation 5.

After approximately 7 to 10 days, the larva transforms into an adult tiger beetle 6. Adults are characterized by their remarkable speed and powerful jaws, which they use to catch prey 7.

Reproduction Strategies

Males typically spend their time searching for females to mate with, while females focus on avoiding or getting rid of unwanted male attention 8. When mating successfully occurs, the female tiger beetle will lay her eggs to begin the next generation of beetles.

Some species of tiger beetles exhibit unique reproductive behaviors, such as forming groups when hunting, like the Carolina Tiger Beetle 9.

Scientific Classification

Tiger beetles are part of the Cicindela genera and the Carabidae family 10. Their scientific name is dependent on the exact species being discussed, as there are more than 2,700 known species of tiger beetles worldwide 11.

Habitat and Distribution

Different Habitats

Tiger beetles can be found in various habitats across the planet. They favor sandy areas and open environments, where they can easily locate their prey. For example, you might find them in deserts, sandy surfaces, and sand dunes. They also inhabit clay banks and can sometimes be found seeking shade during hot conditions to prevent overheating 1.

Geographic Distribution

The distribution of tiger beetles encompasses numerous regions, including North America and tropical areas. As they are highly adaptable creatures, they have the ability to thrive in a wide range of environments. Here is a comparison table illustrating their habitat preferences:

Habitat Environment
Desert Hot and dry
Sandy areas Loose substrate
Sand dunes Wind-swept
Clay banks Compact surface

Overall, tiger beetles are fascinating insects that have adapted to various habitats and can be found in diverse geographic regions. Understanding their distribution and habitat preferences can help researchers and enthusiasts study and protect these remarkable creatures.

Threats and Conservation

Habitat Destruction

One major threat to tiger beetles is habitat destruction. These beetles rely on specific environments like sandy shores, riverine habitats, and in some cases, even nocturnal habitats for the Carolina Tiger beetle. When their habitat is destroyed or altered, it can greatly impact their population and survival.

For example:

  • Urban development can lead to loss of natural habitats
  • Agricultural practices may alter their environment
  • Pollution can negatively affect their ecosystem

Conservation Measures

There are various conservation measures that can help protect tiger beetles and their habitats. Some of these include:

  • Preserving and restoring natural habitats
  • Implementing sustainable land use practices
  • Educating the public on the importance of these beetles in the ecosystem

To make a positive impact on the conservation of tiger beetles, you can:

  1. Support local conservation initiatives
  2. Avoid disturbing the natural habitats of these beetles
  3. Learn more about their ecological role and spread awareness

By taking these steps, you can contribute to the conservation of tiger beetles and their ecosystems.

Tiger Beetles as Pets

Care and Handling

Tiger beetles can be fascinating pets due to their unique features and hunting abilities. However, they require specific care to thrive in captivity.

Housing: Provide a suitable living environment by setting up a terrarium filled with a mixture of sand and soil. This allows them to burrow, as they would in their natural habitat. The terrarium should be spacious, preferably 10-20 gallons in size.

Maintain their habitat

  • Keep the substrate slightly damp, but not overly wet
  • Provide hiding spots such as plants or rocks

Feeding: Their diet primarily consists of insects and spiders. You can feed them small insects like crickets, fruit flies, and mealworms. Offer food every 2-3 days, ensuring they receive sufficient nutrition while avoiding overcrowding their habitat.

Handling: Tiger beetles are sensitive insects, so limited handling is recommended. Restrict interaction to when absolutely necessary, such as cleaning their enclosure or relocating them.

Temperature & Humidity: Maintain a temperature range of 70-80°F (21-27°C) to mimic their natural environment. A heat lamp or heating pad can be used to maintain the desired temperature. For humidity, maintain an average relative humidity of around 30-50% depending on the species of tiger beetle.

Remember

  • Monitor the terrarium’s temperature and humidity regularly, ensuring consistency.
  • Regularly clean the enclosure by removing any left-over food, feces, and debris to maintain a hygienic environment.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to create an optimal environment for your pet tiger beetle and witness their fascinating behaviors up close.

Footnotes

  1. https://entomology.unl.edu/tigerbeetle/tiger_biology.htm 2

  2. https://entomology.unl.edu/tigerbeetle/tiger_biology.htm

  3. https://entomology.unl.edu/tigerbeetle/tiger_biology.htm

  4. https://entomology.unl.edu/tigerbeetle/tiger_biology.htm

  5. https://entomology.unl.edu/tigerbeetle/tiger_biology.htm

  6. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/life-cycle

  7. https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/biological-control-information-center/beneficial-predators/tiger-beetle/

  8. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/tiger-beetles

  9. https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/biological-control-information-center/beneficial-predators/tiger-beetle/

  10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_beetle

  11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiger_beetle

Reader Emails

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 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

What kind of bug is this?!
July 13, 2009
Ok, we’ve been catching these things since i can remember and we’ve always called them doodlebugs, but after researching on the internet it seems that my family must be the only ones who call these doodlebugs! So, i’m just curious as to what they really are called. We always would catch these by sticking a long blade of grass or pine needle (anything long and slender) and wait for it to start moving and pushing back up and then just pull it up real fast and they would come flying out!
Also, when you touch them with something they will arch their backs real fast as if they try to stick you with whatever that hump towards the end of their body is. Is this some kind of stinger or something??
Thanks alot for your help!
Tim D.
Bastrop, LA

Tiger Beetle Larva
Tiger Beetle Larva

Hi Tim,
This is a Tiger Beetle Larva in the subfamily Cicindelinae
.  There is another insect commonly called a Doodlebug, and that is the larva of the Antlion.  The method you describe for catching your Tiger Beetle Larva is almost identical to the method used by children to catch a true Doodlebug.

Tiger Beetle Larva Hole
Tiger Beetle Larva Hole

Letter 2 – Tiger Beetle, but what species???

 

colorful metallic beetle
January 12, 2010
Could you please help us identify this beetle? We found it in a shallow, sandy-bottomed stream which runs through Angelina National Forest. Thank you for any light you can shed on its identity!
The Guy family
Jasper, Texas

Tiger Beetle
Tiger Beetle

Dear Guy family,
This is a Tiger Beetle in the genus Cicindela, though we are uncertain of the species.  We looked through all the possibilities on BugGuide, but couldn’t make a conclusive identification.  It is possible that it is the Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, which is described on BugGuide as being:  “Brilliant green coloration with six white spots. No other Nearctic Tiger Beetle looks much like this one. Occasional variation seen—overall color may be bluish on some individuals, and spots may be missing on some individuals.
”  There is one example on BugGuide with a color pattern similar to your specimen.

Letter 3 – Velvet Beetle from South Africa

 

Unknown South African Bug
Location: Sontuli Loop, Imfolozi NP, South Africa
January 31, 2012 7:52 am
I came across and photographed a beetle in Imfolozi NP jn South Africa, it was close to water but not a water beetle. I have researched various sites on the internet and cannot find anything that is similar and would be grateful if you could help.
Thanks
Don Whittaker
Signature: Don Whittaker

Velvet Ground Beetle

Hi Don,
We were going back through recent, unanswered submission, and we found your identification request.  We wanted to research this more before posting, and we have not had an opportunity, so we thought it best to post as unidentified and request assistance from our readers.  In our opinion, this resembles a Tiger Beetle in the subfamily Cicindelinae (see BugGuide for North American examples), though the shape is a bit uncharacteristic, but the image quality is not ideal for close scrutiny.  None of the South African Tiger Beetles on the Biodiversity Explorer website look like your individual.

Correction Courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and Don:
It’s another kind of Ground Beetle, a Velvet Ground Beetle (Carabidae: Graphipterinae) in the genus Graphipterus. This is an impressively large genus with at least 139 species and many subspecies. Many of these have similar markings on the pronotum and elytra (e.g., G. ancora) but I believe this one is probably G. fasciatus fasciatus. Regards.  Karl

Thanks Karl.  A comment from Ted came to the same conclusion.

Letter 4 – Twelve Spotted Tiger Beetle

 

Black yet colorful ground beetle?
Location:  Fairfield, Maine USA
August 28, 2010 10:33 am
Dear Bugman,
I think it’s a ground beetle, only because I found it crawling around on the ground. It looked sdull black at first but actually has iridescent/opalescent areas all over it. Do you know what this bug is?
Thanks,
James R

Twelve Spotted Tiger Beetle

Hi James,
We really must abandon the computer this morning and go outside.  This is a Tiger Beetle in the subfamily Cicindelinae (see BugGuide) and most likely the genus
Cicindela.  You may want to browse through BugGuide’s pages of species to try to identify your beetle.  Many Tiger Beetles look similar to one another, but they have very limited ranges which sometimes aids in the identification.
P.S.  Was this photographed today?  If you are searching through your archives of photographs to send, please include information on when the sighting occurred as some insects are very limited in their seasons.

Twelve Spotted Tiger Beetle

Hi Daniel,
This was taken about one day ago…
Thanks,
James

Thanks James,
That might be very helpful information as certain species of Tiger Beetles only appear in the spring.

Update: August 31, 2010
James provided a comment after browsing through the Tiger Beetles on BugGuide and he properly identified his Twelve Spotted Tiger Beetle,
Cicindela duodecimguttata.  The data page on BugGuide indicates many sightings in August.

Letter 5 – Tiger Beetle: Cicindela campestris

 

I’m in England and my fiancé and I have found a bug that we do not know much about, here is a picture of it, what do you think it is?
Truly Bugged in England,
Virginia and Dave

Dear Virginia and Dave,
You have a Tiger Beetle, Family Cicindelidae. These are fast, predatory hunters, often irridescent in color. They are also strong fliers, are often found in sandy locations, and they capture and kill their prey with powerful sickle-shaped mandibles.

Update (08/22/2006)
Hello Lisa Anne and Daniel,
I recently came across your website and I was pleased to see such a vibrant (and well-done) site. I’m an entomologist and evolutionary biologist (specializing on the systematics, taxonomy and evolution of tiger beetles and their close relatives) and I have to say that I’m impressed with your accuracy rate! It’s much, much better than other comparable sites I’ve come across over the years. The two of you must really love insects. In any case, I noticed that you are open to information from specialists, so I thought I’d give you a few ID’s of species that I came across on your pages. I was having trouble sleeping, so I went through all of the tiger beetles, scaratines, etc and checked them out. Here you go: “(04/11/2004) Tiger Beetle” This is Cicindela campestris, which is a common and widespread European tiger beetle. They are beautiful, aren’t they? I’ll bookmark your site and check it out when I’m having trouble sleeping again!
Daniel P. Duran
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

Letter 6 – Tiger Beetle: Harbinger of Spring!!!

 

Is this a type of Tiger Beetle?
While walking through the woods yesterday with an 80F Saturday, I spotted many of these on the trail. These Beetles seemed to scurry quickly about, and would fly off if approached too closely. Curious as to what kind of beetle (resembles some Tiger Beetle pics on this site). Thanks in advance.
Bob Jones

Hi Bob,
This is most surely a Tiger Beetle, but we are reluctant to attempt an exact species as you did not provide a location. Even with a location, exact species identification of Tiger Beetles is often a challenge for us. Tiger Beetles are harbingers of spring, as they are most active on warm days after the snow has melted when they scurry about in search of prey.

Letter 7 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

What’s This?
This fellow lives in holes in the ground in SC and can be pulled out with straws or blades of grass.
What is it?
CC

Hi CC,
This is a Tiger Beetle Larva, Family Cicindelidae. Tiger Beetles are small beetles with large heads and prominent eyes. They run and fly quickly and are called Tiger Beetles because of their predatory attacks on other insects. The larvae are elongated and grublike with large curving jaws and they live in burrows in the ground often near streams, creeks and ponds where there is a sandy shore. The larva props itself near the top of the burrow by means of the hump on its back that has hooks. The jaws are kept open until some unwary insect passes within reach. The prey once captured is taken to the bottom of the burrow to be devoured. The burrow is often a foot or more deep.

Letter 8 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

odd creature
I have found 3 of these little holes in my backyard, within 6 inches of each other. There is a little creature inside each one, but they are very cautious little things! I had to sneak up to get this picture, and it took several tries. They are usually hidden inside but occasionally they come to the top of the hole and just sit there, like this one is doing. They’re very fast and duck back down into their holes if you get too close too fast. I put little twigs into the holes to see what they would do, and each one would push the stick out. One of them pushed the twig out with so much force that it flew a good 6 inches away from the hole! I dug away at one of the holes, and the next morning this little guy had reconstructed his tunnel and re-formed a very neat little hole. I am very curious as to what these are! Wish I had a better picture 🙁
Thanks!
Amanda

Hi Amanda,
The larva of the Tiger Beetle is an expert in the ambush. It waits in its hole until prey passes and then it lunges and captures the unwary insect or arthropod.

Letter 9 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

Strange Ground Dweller
Howdy,
This spring I noticed pencil-sized holes in the hard-packed soil in our back-yard (compaction caused by construction a couple of years ago). I never saw any animal activity associated with the holes until just the past couple of weeks. I was out walking our puppy one evening and I noticed something quickly retreat down into one of these hole from just inside the entrance. It had been sitting close to the opening, but not quite at the top. I began to notice more and more of these, and realized that pretty much all of the dozens and dozens of these holes around the yard, they must all have been active. While walking the puppy just before bedtime, and carrying a flashlight, I discovered that I could "blind" the animal by shining the light directly at it. This allowed me to approach within a couple of feet of the hole to observe the animal. But even that close I really couldn’t tell what I was seeing. It looked like some kind of strange spider to me. I determined to get a photo of one of the beasties. So, I set up a camera with a macro lens and waited. Attached is the best shot I could grab of the critter in its burrow. I also took a shovel and waited at one of the burrows until it’s occupant appeared. Then I quickly jabbed the shovel at about a 30 degree angle into the soil a few inches from the hole, hoping to get the shovel in underneath the bug. I did, although I am not sure that the bug is intact– in the attached photo of the bug out of its lair, I think the dirt covered rear is the result of cutting it in half. So, any help you can give me in identifying this creature would be much appreciated.
Regards,
Bill Read

Hi Bill,
Thank you for your excellent letter and wonderful images. This is a Tiger Beetle Larva, Family Cicindelidae. The larva dig burrows and sieze prey that wanders by. They anchor themselves in the hole with hooks on the fifth abdominal segment.

Letter 10 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

Dear Bugman,
I just moved to Houston, Texas recently and was very curious about the pencil sized holes in the flat hard part of my new yard. I started sticking twigs in these holes out of curiosity and one day something pushed the twig back out! Turns out, these creepy little things would actually grab the sticks and play tug-of-war with me untill I was able to take a picture of it’s head. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t come all the way out so I couldn’t identify it. Today I was digging holes for a new path and found one. Please help me figure out what it is. It’s about an inch long. I’ve also sent you a picture of a stuffed animal version of this hideous creature for your amusement. Enjoy!
Jamie

Hi Jaime,
This is a predatory Tiger Beetle Larva. The larvae of Tiger Beetles live underground in a hole, and the flat head covers the head. The larva uses its strong mandibles to capture passing prey. While preparing our response, we noticed you also have your photos posted to that most excellent resource, BugGuide.

Letter 11 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

Bug Name
Location: South East
October 20, 2010 6:56 pm
My dad taught me how to take a piece of grass and put it in the hole, and when the worm started to push the grass out, you YANK out the worm. I have looked everywhere and cannot find the name of the worm/bug/ant/whatever. They live in hard ground in holes. They eat small bugs and are great fish bait. So what is this bug?
Signature: Alesha

Tiger Beetle Hole

Dear Alesha,
We are perfectly charmed by your story of luring a Tiger Beetle Larva in the family Cicindelinae out of its hole with a blade of grass.  You can see a clearer image on BugGuide, but the accompanying text pales in comparison to your own personal story.

Tiger Beetle Larva

Thank you so much, you have no idea the arguments caused by this worm.  And if you think this story is charming, you should hear the others.  The excitment of living in the south, we have to entertain ourselves somehow.  Thanks again!!!
Alesha

Letter 12 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

Unidentifiable bug/insect in hole
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
June 5, 2011 5:24 pm
I have several holes in my yard about the diameter of a pencil. Every now and then I can see its inhabitant peeking out, but it is quick. It ducks back in before I can really get a good look. Recently I was able to get a photo and try to enlarge image. This is driving me crazy what is this bug?
Signature: Bugged

Tiger Beetle Larva

Hi Bugged,
This is the predatory larva of a Tiger Beetle in the subfamily Cicindelinae and you may compare your photo to this image on BugGuideBugGuide also offers this information on the larvae:  “The larvae typically occur in the same habitat as the adults. The S-shaped larvae construct vertical burrows in the soil and anchor themselves with hooks located on the fifth abdominal segment.”

Letter 13 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

Subject:  Ground Dwelling bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Henderson, KY
Date: 08/08/2018
Time: 03:11 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hey Bugman!
I been seeing these little holes in the ground, with a bug head in em. I’m curious so for past 2 weeks been trying to lure out the dam things.
Today i managed to make a trap where i could get it out the hole.
I got it out, and took some photos. Google reverse image  search is coming yp with nothing.
I AM INTRIGUED!!!
How you want your letter signed:  Thanks, The Dude Man

Tiger Beetle Larva

Dear The Dude Man,
First off, congratulations on the 20th Anniversary of The Big Lebowski.  Secondly, and probably more importantly, we are thrilled with your awesome images of a Tiger Beetle Larva, which is pictured on BugGuide.  According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Entomology website:  “The newly-hatched larva enlarges the hole and burrows perpendicularly to the soil surface. This is accomplished byloosening the soil with its mandibles and using its head and thorax like a shovel to carry the soil. At the surface, the larva flips the soil backward off its head. There are three larval stages, and larvae enlarge and lengthen their burrow as they grow. The burrow may be 18 inches or more in depth, depending on the substrate. While in their burrows, larvae can survive without food for weeks and can also survive temporary flooding. They do not leave their burrow under normal circumstances but often wait at the burrow entrance to ambush small arthropods. When a suitable victim is near, the larva attacks with lightning speed. It throws its head (usually backward) to grab the prey with its sickle-shaped jaws. Then, it pulls the prey down into the burrow to devour it. Somewhat like a spider, larvae secrete digestive enzymes to help break down their food before ingestion. Tiger beetle larvae are unique in that they have hooks located on the back of their abdomen to anchor them to the side of the burrow while they subdue large prey. Tiger beetle larvae, in turn, are fed on by hister beetles, birds, and ants, and are parasitized by bombyliids (bee flies) and several wasps. The larval period may last up to four years depending on the species.”  We hope you were able to return this Tiger Beetle Larva to its hole.

Tiger Beetle Larva
Hole of a Tiger Beetle Larva

Letter 14 – Tiger Beetle Larva

 

Subject:  Garden pest?
Geographic location of the bug:  Belgrade, Maine
Date: 06/12/2019
Time: 07:57 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Saw these tiny little perfect holes in my newly seeded beet bed and carefully excavated with a small twig, maintaining the integrity of the hole; when I got to about 5-6 cm. down this “scary” beast jumped up and attacked the stick! It’s about 1.5 cm long. Could this be what made for an unsuccessful beet bed last year?
How you want your letter signed:  Mary

Tiger Beetle Larva

Not at all Mary.  This is a beneficial, predatory Tiger Beetle larva.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  

Thank you! So wonderful- I was hoping it was one of the ground beetles! Not being sure, I set it free behind my house far from vegie garden, in my wildflower garden! Now I will know for sure and  will leave them be. This is the first year I haven’t rototilled, hoping to encourage beneficials.

Letter 15 – Tiger Beetle Larva and Katydid Nymph

 

immature insects
I’ve attached photos of an immature tiger beetle that was found on the beach (Cumberland Island off the GA coast) and one of an immature katydid. I was wondering if it is possible to identify them to species just from the photos of the immatures.
Thanks,
Anthony

Hi Anthony,
Surely someone can answer your question, sadly, we cannot. The Tiger Beetle Larva is a wonderful image.

Letter 16 – Tiger Beetle: Smashed then Sprayed to Death

 

Subject: Green and red metallic beetle?
Location: Warm wet area/ texas
October 6, 2014 8:49 pm
I found this bug in my living room. It had a black body with yellow legs and the body color in a flashlight is a emerald color. I hit it really hard on the floor with a thick hard yellow pages book. And when I thought I killed it, it took off running really fast and hid behind my TV Stand table. I got this really powerful roach and beetle killer but the insect didn’t die and kept running until it slowed down 8 minutes later. Please help.
Signature: Brook

image too blurry

Here is a better picture.

Tiger Beetle, we suppose
Tiger Beetle, we suppose

Dear Brook,
This might be a Tiger Beetle, and in our opinion, these beautiful beetles, which you observed look like emeralds, are much more attractive alive than dead.

 

Letter 17 – Tiger Beetles eat Corn!!!

 

Good afternoon.
A friend of mine and I were camping on the Tallapoosa river in June of 2005 and when my friend dropped a shrimp on the sand these little guys came out of the sand to dine. They seem to like corn as well. With an appetite such as theirs I thought I should investigate, after all, a shrimp and a toe may look similar to these guys. I looked around for awhile, but became overwhelmed. I had no idea there was such a variety of insects. Thank you for any help you have offer.
Bryan.

Hi Bryan,
We believe these are Tiger Beetles in the subfamily Cicindelinae, but we have never heard of them eating corn. We will check with Eric Eaton to get a second opinion. Eric quickly wrote back with this information: “Yes, indeed they are tiger beetles, Megacephala carolina to be exact,mostly nocturnal in habits. I know other types of ground beetles are atleast occasional seed-eaters, so perhaps this behavior in tiger beetlesshould not be surprising. Very interesting image in any event,documenting the omnivorous nature of this species.Eric”

Thanks for the i.d. guys, I can now search around to see if they do eat toestoo! We watched them polish off the corn. Odd note, they each ate anentire kernel of corn apiece, which is larger than they are… where didthey store all of it! Thanks again..

Letter 18 – Tiger Beetles from Canada

 

Subject: Tiger Beetle hunting behaviour?
Location: Short Hills Provincial Park, Thorold, Ontario
July 14, 2015 4:52 am
Hi WTB!
I thought you might like these pictures of tiger beetles I took at Short Hills Provincial Park. I like how one is a brilliant green and the other is a more sapphire colour. I noticed both beetles making a pose where they leaned back, almost as if to get a better view of their surroundings. Do you know if that’s a hunting behaviour or perhaps a reaction to my presence?
It was a very colourful day for bugs, as you can see — I was also able to see many Ebony Jewelwings, and they exhibited a similar range of colours. Some were a lighter aquamarine colour, and some, like the last picture provided, were more of an indigo colour.
Anyway, I love your site, and hope you enjoy these pictures even if you don’t post them. Thank you for the great service you provide 🙂
Signature: Brad

Six Spotted Tiger Beetle
Six Spotted Tiger Beetle

Dear Brad,
Your Tiger Beetle images are beautiful.  The green individual is a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, and according to BugGuide, it is described as:  “Brilliant green coloration with six white spots distinctive. Occasional variation: bluish overall color, or spots missing.”  That could mean that both of your images are the same species.  Tiger Beetles are excellent hunters with good eyesight, and they are quite wary of people, so we are uncertain if the behavior you witnessed is typical hunting behavior or the result of sensing a large human nearby.  We will create a separate posting for your Ebony Jewelwing image.

Tiger Beetle
Tiger Beetle

Letter 19 – Unknown Tiger Beetle is one on the Marsh Ground Beetles

 

Mystery tiger beetle with leopard spots
Hello good people at WTB
I have a good one for you. I trapped this insect in a lindgren funnel trap baited with alpha pinene and ips trilure in Monroe County. The trap is about 15-20 feet off the ground. I have never seen this beetle before and I have done trapping for many years in Michigan. It did not come into the bait but was one of those incidental catches. First thoughts is tiger beetle but it does not seem to fit. 14 different spp. of Cicindela are know to occur in Michigan. The specimen is small (6-8mm) unlike the common tigers in MI. The attached photo was taken by our identifier James Zablotny. Great picture showing the great patterns and coloration. Should be called a leopard beetle due to the spots. I was hoping someone out there can ID this. New US, state, county record, or species?
Brian Sullivan

Hi Brian,
While we don’t know the name of your mystery Tiger Beetle, we hope one of our readers might be able to assist. We have called on Eric Eaton personally and we hope to have an answer for you soon. We are posting your image nice and large to better assist in the identification.

Update: (06/25/2007)
Dear WTB
Mystery Solved I was able to get an ID from our identifier it is a Marsh/Bog Ground Beetle in the Tribe Elaphrini (Elaphrus sp). Out in California you have a species that is critically endangered the Delta green ground beetle (Elaphrus viridis ). I don’t know what the species is for the beast that I have but I am sure this is a new genus for your site. Thanks
Brian Sullivan

Thanks Brian,
Should you ever get an exact species identification, please let us know. If it is a new species, we would love to be able to post the name you give to it. BugGuide has additional information on the genus, commonly known as Marsh Ground Beetles or Bog Ground Beetles.

Update (06/25/2007) From Eric Eaton:
“Great image, but it is not a tiger beetle, at least not in the truest sense. It is a ground beetle in the genus Elaphrus. They are usually found running around on mud flats and muddy margins of ponds and streams (even puddles). They are amazingly cryptic until they move. Eric”

Letter 20 – What’s That Tiger Beetle? Carolina Tiger Beetle

 

Subject: Fast Metallic insect
Location: Coastal Texas. More specifically, Port Comfort.
September 28, 2013 12:19 pm
Unfortunately, I had to pin this amazing guy for a project. He is a metallic green with some purplish in the center, and has beige eye spots and legs. I thought he would be an easy catch. I was absolutely wrong. This was probably one of the hardest ones I’ve caught, because of his size, speed, and determination to not give up. Took about 4 minutes of *almost* catching him, I finally got him. Then, moving him into my kill jar, he got out and it was another 5 minute chase around my house. After about 5 hours, I tried to move him out to pin. Turns out I forgot alcohol and he was still alive. Fast forward 3 minutes and another 5 hours (with alcohol) and here he is. Hope you can I.D. him.
Signature: Insect Chaser

Tiger Beetle
Possibly Carolina Tiger Beetle

Dear Insect Chaser,
We found your letter very amusing, though we are saddened that this lovely Tiger Beetle has ended its life as a part of a collection that will most likely be discarded after you receive a grade.  We scanned the possible species on BugGuide, but our quick search did not produce a species match.

Update:  Carolina Tiger Beetle perhaps
Shortly after posting, we realized this might be a Carolina Tiger Beetle,
Tetracha carolina, which BugGuide describes as:  “dorsal surface glossy metallic green, often mixed with red or purple; large cream-colored spots (apical lunules) at apex of elytra.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

26 thoughts on “Tiger Beetle: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. One of my childhood pastimes was trying to coax these critters out of their holes with grass stems. I got very good at catching them — and yes, at returning them to their homes, as the catching was the fun bit (at least for me; I suspect they didn’t much like being dragged out of their burrows). I didn’t learn until much later that they grow up to become one of my favorite beetles!

    The spiny hump near the tail apparently is very, VERY sensitive. They don’t like being touched there when out of the burrow; any contact with the hump prompts the larva to lash backwards, trying to bite whatever did the touching.

    Reply
  2. Oh, nonono. You are very definitely NOT the only family who calls those “doodlebugs”. That was the first name I knew them by, too. 🙂

    The hump has barbs on it that helps the larva stay secure in its burrow… it’s also very very sensitive to touch. I recall that what it actually does is doubles back on itself and lashes out with its sharp little jaws at whatever dared to touch it there…

    Reply
  3. My dad showed me how to catch doodlebugs when I was a little boy. I taught my children and grandchildren. The other day one of my grand daughters who is 21 years old now went to look at the vegetable garden with me and in a flash she spotted a doodlebug hole and began fishing with a bahia grass seed stalk. One is never too old to get a kick out of catching them. One thing she showed me that I had never seen before is that if you remain very still and watch carefully the bugs will come up to the top and look for prey. Around the hole of the big bug (which she caught) were many tiny holes and we watched as the babies came up and looked around. They are just as ferocious as the big ones.

    Reply
  4. Daniel,

    I will guess this is a Twelve-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela duodecimguttata) after browsing BugGuide.com. What do you think?

    Reply
  5. Based on the location and habitat, the larva is the Eastern Beach Tiger Beetle (Habroscelimorpha dorsalis). These larvae are actually known to use wheel locomotion.

    Reply
  6. Thanks for telling people the right way to pick up the bug. I hurriedly put down the tissue method I am currently using to pick up the many stinkbugs that are invading my house as winter approaches. Otherwise, I do use the method you describe, but with a different glass.

    Reply
  7. I think that maybe we are being a little too quick to judge. Many people do not know much about insects, and it is much better to teach rather than to criticize. Few people would be so angry if the insect had been a mosquito, cockroach or a yellow-jacket. We cannot pick to only care about the ‘beautiful’ creatures of the earth

    Reply
    • Except for tagging this posting as Unnecessary Carnage, a classification which we believe is valid, the only judgement call the editorial staff of What’s That Bug? made was to respond that Tiger Beetles “are much more attractive alive than dead” and we continue to stand by that statement.

      Reply
  8. I have found that a paper towel roll with one end taped up is an excellent bug catching device. The bug crawls in, fold the end, and you can drop it outside. I never kill bugs found in the house. Can’t imagine what is wrong with the person who posted this terrible tale!!

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for this marvelous suggestion. We have always recommended a martini glass or wine glass and postcard.

      Reply
  9. I’m a Golf Course Superintendent and I’ve just went through a greens renovation. I have these Tiger Beetle Larvae coming up all over my new greens. Holes everywhere. What can I do to treat them??

    Reply

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