The Dash

Kelly’s Field Notes

Common Name: Tiger beetle

Order: Coleoptera

Family: Cicindelidae

Genera: There are currently 115 genera of tiger beetles!

Species near you (there are more than 2, 600 species of tiger beetle! 109 of them live in North America.): 


Adult tiger beetles are about 1.3 to 5.2 cm (0.5 - 2 in) in length, with the larger beetles belonging to genus Manticora. They stand on long thin legs, have large bulgy eyes and prominent curved mandibles. Tiger beetles come in an array of dazzling colors and are often iridescent. 

Life Cycle: 

Female tiger beetles lay eggs in small holes dug in the sand. Once the eggs hatch the larvae dig small tunnels where they sit waiting at the top to grab prey, sort of like our friends the antlions. Tiger beetle larvae will eat anything they can grab: ants, spiders, other beetles, etc. They also pupate in their burrows. Tiger beetle larvae feed until late Fall, then close up their burrows for the rest of fall and winter. Next spring they continue feeding until it’s time to pupate (about two months). Adults die after mating/egg laying, taking the entire life cycle to about two years (there are differences between species and regions due to climate). Some species are nocturnal and others are diurnal.

Tiger Beetle Speed:

The tiger beetle Rivacindela (Cicindela) hudsoni is the fastest running insect! It can run about 5.5 mph or 2.5 m/s. The only problem is their eyes can’t keep up and the beetles are temporarily blind while running. Because of this they only run in short bursts so as not to slam into something or fall off of a precipice. They also stiffen their antennae, running them close to the ground to detect any obstacles in their path.

Many Tiger Beetles are Threatened or Endangered:

Tiger beetles tend to live in open, very sandy habitats. Due to habitat loss tiger beetles are currently struggling to survive in some spaces. Off-road vehicles also do a number on their populations by crushing larval burrows. For example, the Salt Creek tiger beetle (Cicindela nevadica lincolniana) only lives in eastern Nebraska, on a tiny saline marsh. Over 90% of this habitat has been destroyed due to development and road projects. While our pal the Salt Creek tiger beetle is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, it is critically endangered, that doesn’t change their shrinking habitat and population.

Tiger Beetle Super Powers:

Tiger Beetle in Culture:


"A Tiger Beetle Aggregation." Beetles In The Bush, 10 Oct. 2011,

Daniel, Ari. "To Escape Hungry Bats, These Flying Beetles Create an Ultrasound 'illusion'." NPR, 22 May 2024,

"Natural History." Center for Biological Diversity,

Schultz, Tom D., and J. Puchalski. "Chemical defenses in the tiger beetle Pseudoxycheila tarsalis Bates (Carabidae: Cicindelinae)." The Coleopterists Bulletin 55.2 (2001): 164-166.

"Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle." Department of Entomology | Department of Entomology,

"Tiger Beetle." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 29 Mar. 2024, Accessed 23 May 2024.

"Tiger Beetles." Xerces Society,

van Huis, Arnold. "Cultural significance of beetles in Sub-Saharan Africa." Insects 12.4 (2021): 368.

"When Tiger Beetles Chase Prey at High Speeds They Go Blind Temporarily, Cornell Entomologists Learn." Cornell Chronicle,

Zurek, Daniel B., and Cole Gilbert. "Static antennae act as locomotory guides that compensate for visual motion blur in a diurnal, keen-eyed predator." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281.1779 (2014): 20133072.