Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Hentz' Red-Bellied Tiger Beetle, Revisited

Three years ago, I made my first visit in many years that took me back to my home town in mid summer. On a walk in the woods, I stumbled upon a tiger beetle subspecies (Cicindela rufiventris hentzii) that is endemic to the Boston area. The beetle was on Agassiz Rock, a large granite outcrop that is owned and managed by the Trustees of the Reservation. Several months later, I was contacted by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, informing me that this is a state-listed (Threatened) species, and that this population was not in their database.

Agassiz Rock

For the first time since then, I'm back in Massachusetts at the right time of year to see hentzii. I went back today with several goals. I wanted to see that the population is persisting. I have a much better camera than I did in 2008, and wanted to try for some better photos. I am aware of a second rock outcropping about a half mile away from Agassiz Rock, and wanted to see if the beetle could be found there as well.

I was successful at all three of these goals. The population at Agassiz is small- I've never seen more than one individual per visit, but I did see one this time. I was able to get a series of photos with the new camera. I'm much happier with these pictures than with the ones from my old camera.

Cardinal Flower and Pickerelweed

The walk to the second rock outcropping is lovely. The land is owned by the Manchester-Essex Conservation Trust. A beautiful wetland stretches between Agassiz Rock and the other outcop. The Pickerelweed and Cardinal Flowers were potting on a spectacular display.

The Second Granite Outcrop

I've never been to the second granite outcrop before, though I have seen it from the highway many times. The tiger beetles are very well camouflaged, and fly less than many other species I am familiar with. Perhaps they persist better on the tiny islands of bare-rock habitat if they are reluctant to fly. I managed to see two individuals on this site.

On Wednesday, Leon and I are heading off to Martha's Vineyard. Who knows, maybe we'll see the last Massachusetts population of Cicindela dorsalis.

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