Readers’ wildlife photos

August 13, 2015 • 7:30 am

I think we’ve been suffering from a dearth of beetles around here. Fortunately, reader Mike McDowell has fixed that issue, sending eight lovely photos of tiger beetles and adding that “All were photographed at various locations in Wisconsin during May and July.”

First, a word about the group from that unimpeachable source (until Greg writes his post about why it’s not unimpeachable), Wikipedia:

Tiger beetles are a large group of beetles known for their aggressive predatory habits and running speed. The fastest species of tiger beetle can run at a speed of 9 km/h (5.6 mph), or about 53.87 body lengths per second. As of 2005, about 2,600 species and subspecies were known, with the richest diversity in the Oriental (Indo-Malayan) region, followed by the Neotropics.

In other words, the fastest ones can walk nearly twice as fast as you do!

Punctured Tiger Beetle (Cicindela punctulata punctulata):


Big Sand Tiger Beetle (Cicindela formosa generosa):


Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris lecontei):


Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle (Cicindela tranquebarica tranquebarica):


Sandy Stream Tiger Beetle (Cicindela macra macra):


Bronzed Tiger Beetle (Cicindela repanda repanda):


Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hirticollis):


Ghost Tiger Beetle (Cicindela lepida) [JAC: this species is threatened because of habitat loss]:


30 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

      1. TJR,

        Most of these tiger beetles were photographed at Spring Green Preserve, which is a sand prairie in south-central Wisconsin, which is owned by The Nature Conservancy. The Ghost Tiger Beetles were photographed at a sand pit near Buena Vista Grasslands in central Wisconsin. A few of the others were photographed at sandbars along the Wisconsin River. Sandy areas are their preferred hunting grounds.

        Mike M.

            1. Thanks again!

              I realised that, but his question had in fact been implicit (and well hidden, I admit) in my initial comment.

  1. These are GORGEOUS 🙂
    My favourite PCC Readers’ wildlife pics for a long while (not that earlier ones are not lovely too!). Darwin the coleopterist would have been in ecstasy to see these!

  2. Wowza. I also take insect pix, but at this time I rely on using extension tubes which means that my working distance is under a foot. I have not even tried to get pix of tiger beetles.
    How do you do it?

    1. Hi Mark,

      Sneaking up on extremely wary tiger beetles is very challenging. There’s also a lot of kneeling and crawling on the ground. More often than not, the beetles fly off before the shutter button is pressed. It can be a real test of patience!



      1. It is one of those abbreviations we see these days on the internet, meaning ‘Not Safe For Work’. I have to look these up all the time.

    1. If your work involves censorship of insect-on-insect action from a cephalopod-porn stream, maybe not so safe for work. Otherwise it’s unlikely to set off many triggers.
      THe Squidly One hasn’t been on the end of much abuse for a while.

  3. Do Tiger Beetles do anything in Wisconsin besides have sex. The pictures reminded me of after the prom. Of copurse taht was some tome ago for me ans all swe ahd was beer. No TV.

  4. Beautiful picts of beautiful beetles. Man names animals in reference to his own scale and his own fears, but, starting now, I’ll call the tiger(or better, the cheetah, because speed) “Cicindela Cat”.

  5. Re. Tiger Beetle speed, it would be interesting to know if it’s all in the synapse firing speed, or something special with the actin/myosin, or both. Are there sloth beetles that could be used for comparison?

    If there’s a Nike Fdn, maybe they could be interested in funding such research.

    1. I do not know about any special muscles or neurons in these beetles, but nerves used for very fast movements are extra thick. Classic examples of these include cockroaches. Maybe they have these as well.
      Their leg design is clearly adapted for fast running. Like a cheetah, most of the muscles are close to the body, and the lower leg is very elongated and spindly and they extend this region further by elevating onto their toes. This means that they can extend and retract the lower leg for a long stride length, and the spindly shape means that that part of the leg is moved with very little inertia.

  6. Those are some spectacular beetles. Some of them look so similar (hairy-necked vs. bronzed) I suppose you really have to know your beetles to discern.
    My favorite has to be the purple iridescent Festive beetle…very festive indeed.

  7. Those beetles are very lovely. I bet they could really bite you one if you picked it up & aggravated it too!

  8. I think we’ve been suffering from a dearth of beetles around here.

    Haldane’s God would be unhappy, and we can’t let that happen.

  9. Tiger beetles, along with dragonflies, are among my favourite insects to watch, capture, identify and release. I haven’t gone tiger beetle hunting for a while, but a number of years ago my young son and I captured some tiger beetles and set up a terrarium. We had a number of species: Sandy Tiger Beetle (Cicindela limbata nympha), Long-lipped (C. longilabris), Twelve-spotted (C. duodecimguttata), Blowout (C. lengi versuta), and Oblique-lined (C. tranquebarica kirbyi). We observed the almost the whole life cycle of the tiger beetles: mating, egg laying and the emergence of larvae. The larvae never made it to the adult stage; it was difficult trying to hand feed them. The adults, however, thrived on a diet of moistened cat food along with treats of small grubs, caterpillars and ants. There were also one or two instances of cannibalism, although I am not sure if it was a case of scavenging an already dead beetle or eating a live one.
    The best guide to North American tiger beetles is “A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada: Identification, Natural History, and Distribution of the Cicindelinae”, by David Pearson, et. al.

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