A tiger beetle is an insect approximately 0.5 inch (1.25 cm) long with wings, long legs, and long antennae. It is estimated that there are more than 1,500 species of tiger beetle throughout the world, with the greatest number living in warm, tropical climates. These different species encompass a wide range of colors. The most common colors seen are brownish gray and black, colors designed to blend in with the environment, while some species sport brilliant hues of iridescent copper, green, or blue.
Tiger beetles are predators, feeding on small spiders, insects, worms, and snails. They can run and fly rapidly, and are able to catch prey both on the ground and while airborne. Their speed makes tiger beetles difficult for humans to catch, but they are prey to dragonflies, spiders, lizards, and toads. Tiger beetle larvae are also aggressive predators, digging holes into which they pull unsuspecting prey which they devour with their powerful jaws.
Its overlapping, sickle-shaped mandibles give the tiger beetle a ferocious appearance. A tiger beetle doesn’t bite humans, though, unless it is handled. Both adult and larval tiger beetles are considered beneficial due to the wide variety of insects they eat. Most are active during the day, but a few species are nocturnal. Some species of tiger beetle are able to produce an odor in an attempt to deter predators.
After mating, the male remains with the female for a short time and protects her from other males. In June or July, female tiger beetles dig holes and lay one egg in each hole. After hatching, the larvae enlarge the holes and live inside, waiting for prey to crawl by. Tiger beetles emerge from these holes after they mature into the adult stage.
These insects are more active on sunny days. Their level of activity is determined by the amount of light, level of humidity, and air temperature. They go deep into their underground burrows during seasons with cold temperatures. Tiger beetles are an indicator species, which means that their presence is an indication of a healthy ecosystem, spoiled by few contaminants.
Around 100 species of tiger beetle are found in the United States. One common species is the six-spotted tiger beetle. This beetle sports a metallic green head, legs, antennae, and wing covers, known as elytra, and generally has six white spots on the wing covers. There are variations, though, with some six-spotted beetles displaying blue coloration, some displaying a different number of spots than six, and some possessing a solid color with no spots.