Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle

Sure, I know you've eagerly awaiting info on this stunning beast, but wait! The tiger beetles are really interesting creatures. And many of them seem to be in a state of decline, as a number of species are very habitat-specific and their haunts have suffered. At least nineteen of them in the genus Cicindela are - or were - known from Ohio.

You may know this one, the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexguttata, which is common throughout Ohio. If you see an astonishingly rapid, iridescent green beetle shooting along the path ahead of you, it may be this. A close look will reveal six tan spots along the edges of the carapace.

This is the beach along the north shore of Kelleys Island, home to one of few populations of the much rarer Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle, Cicindela hirticollis. And this may be the largest group ever assembled that is specifically looking for them. We took a trip over to the island the Friday prior to the big warbler symposium two weekends ago, and Judy Semroc and Larry Rosche quickly found the beetles; a new station for them, I believe.

A Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle racing along the beach. Extraordinarily wary for an insect, some patiance is required for a close approach. Around here at least, this species seems to need largely unmolested sands of Lake Erie beaches. Intense use by people undoubtedly drive it out, and that's been the fate of most Ohio beaches.

Two days later, while leading a field trip to the beach at Sheldon Marsh as part of the warbler symposium, Ben Warner and I found some Hairy-necks there. Ben, amazingly, was able to snag one. After study and photos, it was released unharmed. Sorry about the blurriness of the shot; nonstop rain that day and I couldn't keep the camera lens dry. Still, you can see the ornate markings on the upper wings that characterize tiger beetles. They can be quite difficult to spot against the sand, though.

Voracious predators, as you might deduce from the large pincers. They in turn are preyed upon by many other insects. Tiger beetles warrant monitoring, as many species seem especially vulnerable to habitat degradation.


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