Tigers on the Prowl
Tigers on the Prowl
By Ashley Fink
Summer is the perfect time to catch a glimpse of an accelerated flash near the ground on a trail in the Metroparks-especially in the Oak Openings. The shiny, sometimes iridescent, flash or glimmer belongs to the tiger beetle-a small, but mighty beast.
Moving and flying while on the hunt, they are predatory masters of smaller insects and spiders.
These gorgeous beetles belong to the family Cicindelidae. Members of this family can be identified by their metallic, iridescent looking coloration, and some with lighter patterning. Most measure close to one inch in length with long, skinny, and hairy legs. In northwest Ohio, seven different species of tiger beetles can be found that include: Big Sand, Festive, Six-Spotted, Punctured, Twelve-Spotted, Bronzed, and the rare Ghost tiger beetle.
They can be found sprinting or flying after prey, but always need to make frequent stops in order to reorient themselves. This stop-and-go pattern was studied by an entomologist from Cornell University and was found to occur because the tiger beetle moves too fast to process everything around them when they are in motion.
Amazingly, these beetles are able to travel up to five miles per hour, which is equal to 120 times their body length per second. If a human were to try and travel 120 times their body length per second, they would be traveling around 480 miles per hour!
Where to look: The Metroparks provides a variety of quality habitats that meets the needs of many of these species. Tiger beetles as a group are very sensitive to changes in their habitats, so their presence in our parks indicates healthy ecosystems.
So far this year, tiger beetles have been observed on the Upland Woods Loop Trail at Wildwood Preserve, various sandy trails throughout Oak Openings Preserve, Fallen Timbers Battlefield woodland, and a few other sites. Keep an eye out for a small, but stunning flash that just may land at your feet to get reoriented the next time you are walking a trail.
Did you know? Tiger beetles spend most of their lives (an average of 1-5 years), developing as a larva underground.
Photos by Liz Stahl: Big Sand Tiger Beetle and Six-spotted Green Tiger Beetle