Green-Margined Tiger Beetle

2007 November 10

This one looks like a battle-scarred old veteran. I found it near the road, so it is possible that it lost its antenna and fractured a wing cover in an encounter with a passing vehicle[1], not in combat with some predator or prey:


Even so, it was pretty spry, I had to move pretty quick to catch it.


This is clearly a tiger beetle in the Cincindela genus, probably Cincindela limbalis, the green-margined tiger beetle. I base this on the fact that it has the peculiar markings on the back that apear to be characteristic of a lot of Cinncindela species, and that while the back is brown, the outer edge of the elytra (wing covers) is green.


Tiger beetles are fast-moving predators, which typically live in sandy areas. Their larvae live in holes in the sand, using a plate on top of their heads as camouflage to cover the hole opening. Then, when something edible strolls by, they pop out and nab it. Their habits are a lot like ant lion larvae in a lot of respects, and so ant lions and tiger beetles are often found in the same types of area.

Adult tiger beetles are reputed to be very hard to catch, because when they see you coming they will make a dash and then fly off more often than not. And, with the size of their eyes, it is pretty clear that they can see you coming quite well:


The mandibles are pretty substantial, too, which would make it easy for them to snatch up prey as they dash by. I understand that they can also bite, although this one didn’t bite me[2]. The mouthparts are actually a bit complicated: there are the two big grasping mandibles on top:


and a lot of fiddly bits underneath whose function I am not sure about. It almost looks like they are intended to slip under prey, and lift them up so that the main mandibles can get a grip.


I’ve never actually seen any of the larvae, but apparently one of the ways to find them is to walk across a sandy area, and look for little holes that suddenly appear in the sand. What happens is, the larvae feel you coming, and drop to the bottoms of their burrows (which can be a foot or more deep). Since they plug the tops of their burrows with the plates on their heads, this takes away the cover on the entrance and makes the hole abruptly become visible.

[1] This might be the only reason that I was able to catch it without a net. It scampered pretty fast, and I wouldn’t have been able to catch it at all if it could have flown away. I think the wings were damaged enough that it couldn’t fly anymore, but man, could it run!

[2] It certainly had the chance to bite, I carried back to the house in my hands, and was holding it in my fingers for the last few shots so that I could get pictures of the face.

2 Responses
  1. February 29, 2008

    Hey, great blog. I just found you through the Nature Blog Network. I really enjoy tiger beetles. There is a really nice field guide a little over a year old A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada by Pearson, Kinsley, and Kazilek. You can get it on Amazon. I’ll be posting a new tiger beetle pic on my blog sometime next week.

  2. August 18, 2008

    Yes, Cicindela limbalis is the correct ID. I’ve got quite a few tiger beetle pics on my site if you’re interested.

    Regards — Ted

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