What Do Tiger Beetles Eat? Quick Guide to Their Diet

Tiger beetles are fascinating insects known for their remarkable speed and agility. But, have you ever wondered what these small yet ferocious predators consume? With over 2,760 species of tiger beetles found across the globe, their diet primarily consists of tiny insects and spiders that they hunt on the ground.

As you observe these intriguing creatures, you’ll notice their unique hunting behavior. They sprint after their prey in short bursts, running and stopping repeatedly in order to catch their next meal. In fact, some species like the Carolina Tiger beetle are even known to be nocturnal and gregarious, hunting in “packs” together.

Due to their striking appearance and exceptional hunting skills, tiger beetles play a vital role in controlling the population of other insects. As predators in their ecosystem, their presence helps maintain balance and contributes to overall biodiversity.

Overview of Tiger Beetles

Tiger beetles are fascinating insects with over 2,600 species worldwide. These beetles boast unique shapes and various striking colors, such as green, brown, maroon, or even ghostly. You’ll often find them in semi-bare, open habitats, where their long legs enable them to swiftly run and hunt.

Their diet mainly consists of tiny insects and spiders. Due to their predatory nature, both adult and larval tiger beetles play an essential role in controlling the population of these small prey. Their powerful jaws allow them to efficiently capture and consume their meals.

Here’s a quick comparison of adult and larval tiger beetles:

Adult Tiger Beetles Larval Tiger Beetles
Fast runners Lives in burrows
Hunts during day/night Hooks on abdomen for subduing prey
Relies on powerful jaws May last up to four years

Tiger beetles’ predatory nature does not spare them from becoming prey themselves. Other species, such as birds, ants, and hister beetles, feed on tiger beetle larvae. Additionally, several wasps and bee flies (bombyliids) parasitize these larvae.

In summary, tiger beetles are diverse predators that maintain a healthy ecosystem by consuming small insects and spiders. However, they also become part of the food chain when targeted by other predators and parasites.

Prey of Tiger Beetles

Tiger beetles are known to be voracious predators. They primarily eat a variety of small insects, with larger insects occasionally making up their diet as well. Below are the common prey items found in the diet of tiger beetles:

  • Small insects: These make up the majority of the tiger beetle’s diet, and can include various types of flies, ants, and other tiny insects 1.

  • Flies: Tiger beetles are quick to feed on flies, as they can catch them easily due to their incredible speed and agility 2.

  • Wasps: Though not as common, tiger beetles will also prey on wasps if given the opportunity 3.

  • Spiders: Spiders are another potential meal for tiger beetles, especially the smaller ground-dwelling species 4.

Here is a comparison table that shows the different prey types consumed by tiger beetles:

Prey Size Frequency
Small insects Tiny Very common
Flies Small Common
Wasps Medium Less common
Spiders Small Less common

To keep in mind, the colors and physical features of various tiger beetles may impact their choice of prey. Some species are more active during the day, while others prefer to hunt at night. No matter the choice of prey, tiger beetles are known to be successful and efficient hunters, making them an important part of their ecosystem.

Hunting and Predatory Behavior

Tiger beetles are known for their remarkable hunting skills and speed. As both adults and larvae, they are predators that rely on their powerful jaws and agile movement to catch their prey.

Their hunting behavior varies depending on the species. For example, the Carolina Tiger beetle is nocturnal and sometimes hunts in “packs”, while other species may be active during the day.

When hunting for prey, tiger beetles rely on their excellent eyesight. They can spot small insects from a distance and quickly close in on their target. Their speed is both an advantage and a challenge, as they can run so fast that their eyes can’t process the changing images quickly enough. This results in the beetles having to stop momentarily and repeate this process until they capture their prey.

In addition to their speed, tiger beetles have strong, sharp mandibles that make their bites quite effective in immobilizing their victims. Their speed and agility help them evade the various predators that may be after them, such as birds, lizards, spiders, and flies.

Here are some key characteristics of tiger beetle hunting and predatory behavior:

  • Predatory as both adults and larvae
  • Use powerful jaws (mandibles) to catch and immobilize prey
  • Rely on agile movement and incredible speed
  • Possess excellent eyesight for spotting and tracking prey
  • May experience brief moments of blindness due to high running speeds

In summary, tiger beetles are fascinating predators with a unique combination of speed, agility, and powerful mandibles that allow them to be effective hunters. Their hunting and predatory behavior are vital for their survival in the diverse environments they inhabit.

Anatomy and Adaptations

Tiger beetles have distinct body features that make them efficient predators. Their large, bulging eyes enable them to spot their prey at a distance. Along with their slender legs and agile movements, they can quickly chase down their targets 1.

Their strong mandibles are perfect for capturing and consuming prey, while their long, slender legs allow them to run at impressive speeds 2. In addition, the exoskeleton covering their head, thorax, and abdomen provides them with protection.

The colors and patterns on their bodies play an important role, too. Tiger beetles come in various beautiful iridescent shades, such as blue and green. These colors help with camouflage, as they blend into their surroundings while stalking their prey 3.

Here are some key adaptations of tiger beetles:

  • Large, bulging eyes for spotting prey
  • Strong mandibles for capturing and consuming prey
  • Slender legs for running at high speeds
  • Iridescent colors and patterns for camouflage

Tiger beetles are equipped with wing covers, or elytra, which protect their wings while they’re not in use. These insects also have hooks located on their abdomen, which help larvae anchor themselves to the side of their burrow while they subdue large prey 4.

Habitat and Distribution

Tiger beetles inhabit various environments, with many species found in North America. They thrive in sandy areas, sand dunes, and clay banks, where they can easily move and hunt their prey. Their distribution ranges from tropical regions to the more temperate climates.

In sandy surfaces, you can often spot these beetles on paths or near the soil. They prefer open, sunny environments that provide ample opportunities for hunting tiny insects and spiders, which they feed on. One example of such a habitat is the coastal sand dunes found along the eastern seaboard of the United States.

However, these beetles aren’t limited to sandy areas. They also adapt to different environments and can be found in locations with varying soil types. Some tiger beetles, for instance, can be observed around clay banks or hard-packed paths in more arid regions.

In summary, tiger beetles are versatile creatures that can be found in various habitats. Their distribution spans across North America and into the tropics, adapting to different environments and thriving in sandy areas, clay banks, and other types of soil.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Tiger beetles have a fascinating life cycle that begins with reproduction. Adult males spend their days searching for females to mate with. When a male finds a female, he must be persistent, as females often try to avoid or get rid of the males1.

After successful mating, the female lays eggs in the soil. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae emerge and begin their development. The larval period may last up to four years, depending on the species and environmental conditions2. Tiger beetle larvae are known for their unique hooks located on their abdomen, which help them anchor to the side of their burrow while subduing large prey2.

During this time, the larvae will go through several molts, shedding their exoskeleton to allow for growth. These voracious predators feed on a variety of insects and spiders1. However, they are not without their own predators. Tiger beetle larvae can fall prey to hister beetles, birds, and ants or be parasitized by bee flies and several wasp species2.

Some key features of tiger beetles’ life cycle:

  • Males constantly search for females to mate with
  • Females lay eggs in soil
  • Larval period may last up to four years
  • Larvae have unique hooks on their abdomen
  • Larvae are predaceous, feeding on insects and spiders
  • Several predators and parasites target tiger beetle larvae

Keep in mind that the tiger beetle’s life cycle is influenced by its environment. For instance, some species living in desert areas have evolved special adaptations, such as long, thin legs that help them move quickly over the sand3. Understanding tiger beetles’ life cycle and reproductive habits is crucial to appreciate their role in the ecosystem and learn more about their fascinating behaviors.

Threats and Survival

Tiger beetles are fascinating predators in the insect world. However, they face a number of threats that challenge their survival.

Habitat Destruction:
One major concern for tiger beetles is habitat destruction. As their natural habitats are often altered or destroyed by human activity, they struggle to find suitable places for hunting and breeding.

Predators:
There are various predators that pose a threat to tiger beetles. Some examples include birds and lizards, which prey on them as a food source.

Despite these challenges, tiger beetles have some strategies to increase their chances of survival:

  • Camouflage: Their distinct body patterns and colors help them blend in with their surroundings, making them less noticeable to predators.
  • Speed: Tiger beetles are known for their impressive speed, allowing them to quickly escape from threats.

In the realm of conservation efforts, it’s important to protect the habitats of these fascinating insects. By preserving their habitats, you can make a difference in ensuring the survival of tiger beetles and maintaining the balance of the ecosystems they inhabit.

Species and Diversity

Tiger beetles belong to the family Cicindelidae, and they are known for their predatory behavior and incredible speed. Their diversity is astounding, with over 2,600 species worldwide, more than 100 of which can be found in North America1.

The subfamily Cicindelinae includes many interesting species, such as the Cicindela genera, which is one of the most studied and widespread groups of tiger beetles2. Some notable examples are the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle, the Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle, and the Australian Tiger Beetle.

Here are some quick facts about these species:

  • Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle: Thrives in sandy habitats along the Atlantic coastline, known for its metallic gray-green color3.
  • Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle: Looking rather fierce with hairs on its neck region, it can be found in various habitats, from coastal dunes to wooded areas4.
  • Australian Tiger Beetle: Boasting several species within the Australian region, they have diverse color patterns and are recognized as some of the fastest insects in the world5.

In addition, the tiger beetles show incredible variability within certain species. For example, the Australian species can exhibit distinct differences in coloration and patterns, making them even more fascinating.

In summary, the diversity among tiger beetles is impressive, with a variety of species found across multiple continents. Each species is unique, adapting to its specific habitat and playing a vital role in the ecosystem as predators6.

Footnotes

  1. https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/biological-control-information-center/beneficial-predators/tiger-beetle/ 2 3 4 5

  2. https://entomology.unl.edu/tigerbeetle/tiger_biology.htm 2 3 4 5 6

  3. https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/tiger-beetles 2 3 4

  4. https://askabiologist.asu.edu/explore/tiger-beetles 2 3

  5. Australian Tiger Beetle

  6. Tiger Beetles

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

 

ID help on beetle?
Bugman,
I’m a birdwatcher so bugs are not my forte, but when I spotted this shiny-green beetle with whitish spots and I had my camera with macro lens handy I had to take a shot…and now I want to know what it is…can you help?
Thanks,
Corey Finger
Albany, NY

Hi Corey,
This is a Tiger Beetle. More specifically, it seems to be a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata. We are not sure why it is called the Six Spotted Tiger Beetle as most specimens appear to have 8 spots, and some have none.

Letter 2 – Tiger Beetle

 

Brilliant green beetle
Dear Bugman,
You have helped me out in the past, here’s one more. Green beetle is maybe 3/4 inch long. Same size as a common ground beetle. Flies ,hops and skitters along. This bug will be shown on our SPACE website, so the answer will reach many people. SPACE is The Spartanburg Area Conservancy, a small not for profit land trust in SC. thanks,
Fred

Hi Fred,
This is a Tiger Beetle, probably a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, sans spots. Tiger Beetles are closely related to Ground Beetles and are fierce predators.

Letter 3 – Tiger Beetle

 

Need help!
Just wondering if you know what this beetle is. A biologist friend thinks it’s a carabid beetle but isn’t sure. If you identify it you’re welcome to use the photo on your great website! Thanks,
Corey

Hi Corey,
Your beetle is a Tiger Beetle, most likely a Six Spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata. Tiger Beetles are Ground Beetles in the family Carabidae, so they are Carabids, but they belong to a distinct subfamily Cicindelinae. Your photo is lovely, and looks like it was lit professionally in a studio.

Daniel,
Thanks for the ID and for the compliments. The photo was actually taken in the beetle’s habitat, the Shaw Nature Reserve in Gray Summit, MO.

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.

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