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Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

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Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle


Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle, (Cicindela Dorsalis Dorsalis) is sand-colored with white to light tan wing covers on the insect’s back, often marked with fine dark lines. Its head and chest are bronze-green.


Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

The Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle length varies from half an inch to three fifths of an inch (13 – 15.5mm). They grasp their prey with long, curved mandibles (jaw-like mouthpart) in an aggressive manner, and their larvae are also predatory and similarly equipped for feeding. They need high body heat to hunt effectively and eat lice, beach fleas, ants, flies, dead crabs and fish.


Broad sandy beaches provide the best habitat for these beetles. Adults live in the zone between the high-tide line and the dunes; larvae inhabit burrows in the upper intertidal zone. Larvae require beaches that are at least 5 yd. wide with some sand above high tide mark. The northeastern beach tiger beetle has adapted to habitat that is often unstable because of storm.


Adult beetles roam and fly over the sand foraging for other insects and small crustaceans, which they grab with their large jaws. They also scavenge dead fish and crabs. Adults are active day and night in warm weather, feeding, mating, and laying eggs. Their numbers are greatest in July.


Larvae dig vertical burrows between 4 in. and 14 in. deep, depending on the size of the larva. They wait near the top of their burrow to catch small insects and crustaceans that pass by. Because they live in the intertidal zone, where prey is most plentiful, their burrows are inundated at high tide. As the water rises, they plug their burrows with sand, opening them again when the tide recedes. If conditions are poor, a larva will crawl out of its burrow and relocate.


Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

Life Cycle : Adult Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetles emerge from mid-June to mid-August, usually peaking in mid-July. The adult beetles forage in the intertidal zone, preying on small invertebrates and scavenging dead fish. They are primarily diurnal, but are occasionally active at night from mid-July to late August.


Mating occurs from mid-July to early August, and the females lay their eggs in the intertidal zone. By September most, if not all, of the adult beetles have died. Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetles have a two-year life cycle. The overwintering, older larvae first appear in late May and June, while younger larvae appear in mid-August. The larvae dig vertical burrows in the sand. The location of the burrows changes over the course of the year.


In midsummer, the burrows of young, recently-hatched larvae are within a few meters of the high tide line; by autumn, these larvae have moved their burrows to the upper beach. The change in larval burrow location parallels the erosion/accretion cycle of the beach, which widens in the summer as sand is deposited, and narrows in the fall and winter as it is eroded by stronger winds and waves. The depth of the larval burrows increases with each successive instar.


Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

Northeastern Tiger Beetle larvae

Older larvae are dormant through much of the summer, but the young larvae are extremely voracious. Their sensory organs detect vibrations made by small invertebrate prey; when the prey is close enough, the larval tiger beetle lunges out of its burrow and captures its victim with strong, serrated jaws, then dragging its prey into the burrow and devouring it. Larvae develop through three instars and overwinter twice before emerging as adult beetles. The primary food of larvae is sand fleas, which are often abundant in wet sand around the sea-wrack.


Northeastern beach tiger beetle was found historically along New Jersey’s undeveloped Atlantic coastal beaches from Sandy Hook to Holgate, but was eliminated (extirpated) from the State. In 1994, a population of the northeastern beach tiger beetle was re-established at the Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook Unit.


The primary threat to the northeastern beach tiger beetle is habitat disturbance and destruction from development, beach stabilization activities, and recreational beach uses including pedestrian and vehicle traffic, all of which affect the larvae. Other threats include spills of oil or other contaminants, pesticide use, natural or human-induced beach erosion, and natural factors such as predation and storms.


The adults are most active during the morning and late afternoon, seeking shelter from the sun at mid-day. In particularly hot, arid climates they remain inactive during the day, confining activity to the evening hours. They are easily disturbed, dropping readily from the plant and hiding or scurrying away if disturbed. The preovipositional interval of striped blister beetle is about 20 days, with a 10 day interval between production of egg masses.


Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle

Damage :The Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle is an Endangered species in Massachusetts, and is also federally listed as Threatened. There are only two naturally occurring populations remaining. This species formerly inhabited several other beaches on outer Cape Cod and the offshore islands, but it has not been found at any of these sites for many years. Increased intensity of recreation on these beaches, particularly increased off-road vehicle traffic, is responsible for the disappearance of these populations, as well as many others along the Atlantic coast. Off-road vehicles kill adults and larvae by crushing them, and also damage larval burrows. As a result the larvae must reduce their feeding time and expend a considerable amount of energy repairing their burrows.


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