I’ve got tiger beetles on my mind. In the course of preparing a general interest article on these fascinating killers, I’ve been studying up and reminiscing on the various tigers that I’ve seen in the wild. Following are a few photos of these interesting insects, and I am grateful to John Pogacnik and Warren Uxley for graciously providing their work for others to see. Ditto the aptly named tigerbeetlefreak who has some fantastic stuff on Flickr.
The most common and wide-ranging of the twenty species of tiger beetles recorded in Ohio: Six-spotted Tiger Beetle, Cicindela sexgutatta. This incredible photo by John Pogacnik shows several of the features that characterize tiger beetles, and make them such formidable predators. Their mandibles are long and scimitar-like, and rimmed with jagged teeth. Once prey is captured, the beetle makes mincemeat of it quickly. Note the proportionately very long legs. This enables Ferrari-like acceleration, and a top speed that can allegedly approach five miles per hour for some species. For a ½ inch long insect, that is stupefying velocity, and some authorities believe tiger beetles to be the fastest land animals, if their size is taken into account.
Although a bit of effort is required, tiger beetles are fascinating to observe and if one is patient, they will often resume going about their business of hunting and killing in close proximity. They also serve as great environmental barometers, and are worthy of monitoring. As top-end predators, these beetles are akin to Peregrine Falcons in the bird world, and may be among the first organisms to vanish if things start to go amiss with the ecological chain.