Have You Seen the Speedy Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle?

Like a Tiny Jewel:

When I looked out of the garage door this afternoon I spotted what looked like a shiny emerald streaking across the blacktop. On closer Inspection I discovered it was an iridescent green tiger beetle.

Notice the white spots on the hard outer wing covers (elytra). There are three spots on each side of the beetle.

This beetle has the scientific name of Cicindela sexguttata. When translated from the Latin it means the beetle has six spots on it.

 

Color Changing:

 

One of the amazing things about this beetle is its ability to shift colors according to the angle of the sunlight that hits its wings. Below you can see it in a more bluish color. It ranges from green, to purple and blue.

My! What Big Eyes You Have! “The better to see you, my dear!”

One of the interesting features of this beetle is that they have large compound eyes adapted for capturing movement. Notice that the eyes are even wider than the thorax of the beetle.  With these they can quickly identify their prey and pursue it on their long nimble legs designed for speed.

Wow! That’s Fast!

One characteristic that sets these beetles into a category all their own is their speed. This little beetle can scurry across the ground at a rate that it can cover 125 times its body length in a single second. If I could do that I would be able to win in the Olympic running events! Not only can they run quickly, they can also fly.

My, What Big Teeth You Have! “The better to eat you, my dear!”

Notice the large front white mandibles. They are like curved swords with tiny sharp daggers along their edges. 

With these long mandibles the tiger beetle can quickly subdue their prey. Not only can they pierce and grab the creatures they pursue, they can also tear it up into tiny pieces to be swallowed. Note: Some of these beetles can even get your attention by biting you when you try to pick them up, if you can catch them as they speed by.

Let’s Get The Digestion Started Early!

Not only do these beetles break apart their prey, they also spit out a digestive juice onto their food before they swallow it. This actually begins the digestion process so it won’t take so long to get the nutrients into their energy supply.

If You See Me, Let Me Be!

These beetles are not your enemy! Gardeners are fond of these creatures since they reduce the amount of harmful insects, spiders and other creatures that creep into their gardens. Some of their favorite food includes caterpillars of moths and other types of beetles that eat up the leaves and fruit of you garden. They spend the daylight hours zipping around looking for invaders to consume.

You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby…………Not!!!

One of the most interesting things about these beetles is how they begin their five year life span. After emerging from their eggs the larvae dig deep vertical pits in which to hide. These can range from 8″ to about three feet in depth. The larvae are kind of shaped like an “S”. Their heads are very large, in fact they completely cover the tops of the holes in their vertical shafts. The next part is my favorite!

Jack-In-The Box:

When I was a child I was startled when I first saw a Jack-In-The- Box. When It popped out after the music stopped I was shocked by its quick emergence. In a similar way, the beetle larvae of the tiger beetles sit inside their tubes waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by. When they do the larvae quickly pop out and snatch their prey with enormous mandibles. They then pull it down into their deep pit homes to consume at their leisure. The larvae can spend up to a year in these pits until they get fat enough to go into their pupa stage for an amazing transformation into an adult insect that usually emerges in the Spring of the year.

Ecologically Important!:

As you think about the many creatures you see around you it is not long before you see how important they all are to other organisms. Though these beetles eat many other types of insects and spiders, they also are the food of other creatures. As adults there are few creatures fast enough to catch them. I really had to be quick to catch the one I found for closer inspection.They are occasionally captured by spiders in their webs and also by birds. In their larva stage they are often dug up by skunks, moles, grackles, and sandpipers. Beetles are very high in protein needed by the organisms that eat them.

By Design:

When we think further about the whole situation we can clearly see a pattern of an Intelligent Designer. When God created each creature He had a purpose in their introduction to the environment. Each creature is part of a bigger plan. They are all inter-related. Think of the complex food webs that exist around you. If any one part were removed it would cause chaos in the whole system.

Get Out Your Binoculars!

In one of the interesting articles I read about these beetles was one that shared some tips for observing them feed. I was surprised to learn that they recommended using binoculars and sitting near a sandy pathway. Once you spot a tiger beetle scurrying along back off about 10 to 20 feet and use your binoculars to watch it. It will soon slow down when not threatened by your presence and begin its natural feeding process. In this way you can see it capture its prey. They seem to more plentiful in areas with sandy soil such as along pathways and beaches. Some species actually prefer the sandy beaches along the shore line of the ocean and lakes, rivers and streams. Interestingly, if you try this you will probably notice that the beetles tend to take flight when you get too close. When they land they usually face back to where you are standing. After you stand still for a little while they do not feel threatened. In this manner you can more likely observe their natural behaviors.

 

If you want to read more about this you can check out the ASU website and read the article How to Observe Tiger Beetles. It’s a good read.


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