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Life Abounds in a Conservation Cemetery: The Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle


Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela Sexguttata)


Life Abounds in a Conservation Cemetery: The Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle…

A conservation cemetery is, by design, a green space large enough to be a true nature preserve. It may encompass a woodland, a field of wildflowers, even a stream. The hope is that in communion with the natural world, we will find comfort and peace, that in walking amongst the trees, we will find solace for our aching hearts. The intention is to honor the earth and provide a refuge from development and other human impacts. There are countless animals and plants that will benefit from this gift. This month we focus on one such beneficiary, the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle:

The six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) is one of my favorite forest sightings.  Its iridescent emerald green body is easily recognizable as it moves quickly along the path, alternately running and flying. Avid predators, they have excellent vision and rapid reflexes, which makes it hard for admirers to get a good look at them! They run along the ground searching for prey and also catch fast-moving prey on the fly, feeding on caterpillars, beetles, flies, grasshopper nymphs, spiders and other arthropods.

The larvae are also predators, feeding in a unique way. Tiger beetle larvae build vertical tunnels in the soil and wait at the entrance for an unsuspecting arthropod to happen by.  Then they spring into action! They toss their heads backwards and grab the prey with their sickle-shaped jaws. Hooks on their abdomen anchor them in the tunnel as the victims are pulled down into the burrow. They then secrete enzymes to help break the prey down before ingestion.  It’s a dramatic way to feed!

Life isn’t worry free though. Robber flies, other beetles, dragonflies, birds, and small vertebrates prey on tiger beetles. They can also be parasitized by certain mites, wasps, and bees.

Tiger beetle males practice mate-guarding. Mating occurs shortly after the adults emerge, but females will often re-mate. To prevent this, males will often ride on the females back after mating, holding onto her thorax with his large mandibles, providing a clear deterrent to other interested males!

The six-spotted tiger beetle is found in the spring and summer in eastern deciduous forests. Keep your eyes open for a bright green beauty darting about in search of a meal. They are a treat to see in action and are clearly deserving of the name “tiger” in both the larval and adult stages of life!

*photo captured by John Christian Phifer

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