Tiger Beetles – A Quick Guide

What is a tiger beetle?

Tiger beetles are a group of beetles known for their slender legs, bulging eyes, and threatening looking jaws. There are over 2,600 species of this insect found worldwide but are mostly associated with southeast Asia. The beetles have excellent vision and can be identified by the wide range of colors.

The tiger beetle is named after its keen predatory instincts. The creature’s quick and agile movement – along with its stealthy hunting methods -is reminiscent of a common tiger. It has quite a varied diet and intriguing features that have led the family to be studied as an indicator species in biodiversity.

Where are tiger beetles found?

Tiger beetles can be found all over the globe – but their natural habitats tend to be in tropical and sub-tropical areas. The species are commonly seen in the Indo-Malaya region – or much of Southeastern Asia. The insects love the sun – and can be seen on sunny paths and sandy locations out on the prowl for prey.

Sometimes the beetle can be hard to find as its colors and markings match its environment. The insect is well-adapted to its surroundings in parallel to its predatory instincts. Aside from its visibility in the sun, the tiger beetle will live in cylindrical burrows up to a meter deep when it’s not on the hunt.

What do tiger beetles look like?

Tiger beetles have a distinct look – their exoskeletons are slender and quite colorful. The mandibles resemble scythes, under their big eyes. The adults tend to have long legs and can reach up to 20 millimeters in body length.

The tiger beetle’s coloring comes from the refraction of sunlight on its exoskeleton. They can vary in colors from oranges, blues, greens, and scarlets – depending on the shades of local surfaces. The aesthetics and markings of the beetle can vary in species but all are quite similar in body shape and leg length.

Tiger beetle
Northern dune tiger beetle -Michal Fuglevič@123rf.com

How fast are tiger beetles?

Tiger Beetles are known for being remarkably fast. While it is challenging to find an average for the multitude of species, one of the quickest known tiger beetles is the cicendela Hudson. The insect can run up to 9km an hour making it one of the fastest animals relative to its size. This allows it to be a very effective predator.

The manner that tiger beetles hunt has become a point of interest – as its speed often forces it to lose its prey. It has to stop and readjust before charging again at the chosen target. They move so rapidly that their eyes cannot process images – it needs to use its antennae to navigate where it’s heading.

What do tiger beetles eat?

Tiger Beetles match their voracious reputation with a varied diet of insects in both larvae and adult form. They will eat other bugs and spiders – including ants, other beetles, caterpillars, flies, and grasshoppers. They make good use of their fast adaptations to effectively find and devour prey.

The insect will grab its prey by its mandibles and drag it into a burrow so it can’t escape. Tiger Beetles do have a keen eyesight when not moving at such speed, and it’s able to lunge out at prey very quickly should it be passing by.

Do tiger beetles fly?

While there are a multitude of tiger beetle species, the common ones can fly. Some can do so at fast speeds. The six-spotted tiger beetle is known for its quick and effective flight paths. Most of the tiger beetle species only fly about 20-30 feet before grounding again. Not all species can fly.

Do tiger beetles bite?

It is rare for a tiger beetle to bite a human but they may bite if handled. Their bites can be very painful given their long mandibles. Tiger beetles are not toxic despite their ferocity and tendency to give off some bodily chemicals. They do not have any venom in their bite – but some species will emanate poisonous chemicals to deter predators. The creatures will shoot a warning to anybody that comes their way and threatens them.

Do tiger beetles build nests?

Tiger Beetles do not build nests per se but they do create cylindrical burrows up to a meter deep. The burrows can be found on seashores, sand dunes, clay banks, and woodland paths. They use their burrows to lay their eggs and drag prey into the ground to be eaten. None of the species are known to collect and gather to build nests and colonies.

What eats tiger beetles?

Dragonflies, robber flies, other tiger beetles, and birds are known predators of the tiger beetle.