Beetle, Beetle Burning Bright
Sidewalk Tiger Beetle (Cicindela puncticolis) in Michigan
For most of my life, my bug interests have started and ended with butterflies. This began changing in the late 1990s when I started going to the Invertebrates in Captivity Conference and hanging out with a lot of cool entomologists with much broader interests. I’ve become hooked on several other groups. For some reason, I’m particularly taken with tiger beetles. Over at Niches, Wayne posted some beautiful photos of the six-spotted tiger beetle. That’s a common species here in Illinois, and for many years it was the only one that I was familiar with. It was the first species that I collected about three years ago. Since that time, I have been having a blast both collecting and photographing tiger beetles.
Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa) in Michigan
Tiger beetles seem particularly fond of open areas without a lot of vegetation. Many like sandy and muddy areas, though there are plenty of exceptions to this. I always look for them when I am along a beach or a shoreline. I’ve now seen a total of four species at Bluff Spring Fen.
Sutured Tiger Beetle (Cicindela suturalis) on a beach in Puerto Rico
My Lifelist is now up to 22 species. Leon has exhibited a lot of patience with my newfound obsession. He became aware of the degree of my interest in 2005, the year I began paying attention to the group. We took a vacation to his high school reunion in southwest Oregon, then drove up to visit friends on the Olympic Peninsula. That was an excellent trip from a tiger beetle standpoint. We saw four species, including representatives from riverbanks, sand dunes, and in alpine areas.
Last fall, while we were backpacking in the Sierras, it was Leon who first noticed the boreal long-lipped tiger beetles running around on an alpine slope that we were climbing. This is a particularly beautiful species, especially the green western populations. I was especially pleased that I was able to get some good photos.
Tiger beetles are hard both to photograph and to catch. They are voracious predators. When pursuing prey, most species run rapidly over the ground, and intersperse bursts of running with short flights. When alarmed, they fly off rapidly. They are powerful fliers and very wary. This challenge is particularly acute in warm weather when their metabolism (and therefore activity) is high. Nowhere is this feature more difficult than at Wilcox Playa.
Wilcox Playa is a (mostly) dry lakebed in southeast Arizona. During the summer monsoon season it’s glaringly bright and hot. It’s also an amazing place to see tiger beetles. When I was there last August, we saw eight species. At Wilcox, the beetles are both abundant and species diverse. There are at least one species ant two subspecies of beetle that are endemic to the one small valley that the playa sits in.
Most of the individuals that we saw were the beautiful arid-land tiger beetle. At one point, I noticed that one in my collecting jar had similar colors but a completely different wing pattern. It was the Sulfur Springs Valley subspecies of the glittering tiger beetle.
Glittering Tiger Beetle (Cicindela fulgoris erronea)
Unfortunately, the weather was so hot and the beetles so active that I was unable to get any photos. Even the flightless grass runner tiger beetle was hard to catch. I’ll be back next summer. I vow to succeed with the photography.
Grass Runner Tiger Beetle (Cicindela debilis)
Labels: Tiger Beetles