Cicindela campestris (L.)
Green Tiger Beetle
Class: Pterygota – insects
Order: Coleoptera – beetles
British distribution: Local, but throughout much of Britain.
World distribution: Widespread across Europe and Asia.
Cicindela campestris, New Forest, Hampshire, May 2004.
The tiger beetles are long-legged, elegant, fast moving hunters, characterised by their large, bulbous, wide-set eyes and often by their metallic and iridescent colours. There are some 2300 species worldwide, on all continents except Antarctica, and about 875 of these are (or have been) in the genus Cicendela (Pearson & Vogler, 2001). They show greater diversity in the warmer parts of the world and only five species of tiger beetle are known in Britain (current British checklist of the Carabidae at http://www.coleopterist.org.uk/). Of these, four are Cicindela species, with C. campestris much the most common.
Tiger beetles constitute the subfamily Cicindelinae within the family Carabidae, or are still recognised by some authors as a separate family, the Cicindelidae.
C. campestris is, like most Cicindela species, a creature of open ground, especially heathland on sandy soils in spring and early summer, locally frequent apparently in much of Britain where there is suitable habitat. It runs fast when seizing prey, or if disturbed (or if someone is chasing it in the hope of an in-focus photograph), and it will also readily fly for short distances.
Identification and variation
The five British tiger beetles are keyed in Joy (1932), Forsythe (2000) and Luff (2007), and all are illustrated in colour in Linssen (1959) and in Harde (1984). C. campestris is usually metallic green above, with variable, pale markings, and with purplish-red colours around the margins and ventrally. The other species of Cicindela (C. sylvatica, C. maritima, C. hybrida) are bronze to darker brown with yellow markings and all are local and rare. It should be noted that C. campestris too has rare bronze and black variants (Joy, op. cit.).
Confusion with the related Cylindera germanica (= Cicindela germanica) is more possible; this rare and southern species is green to bluish with yellow markings on the elytra, but is smaller and relatively narrower than C. campestris – length below 11mm, whereas C. campestris is typically 12-16 mm in length (Forsythe, op. cit.). The sides of the prosternum (ventral surface of the thorax) are smooth in C. germanica and beset with long bristles in C. campestris. All these beetles are quite variable in the pale or yellow patterning on the elytra (wing-cases).
All our species are illustrated (dorsal and ventral views) on the invaluable Russian site at:
Ground beetles of the tribe Cicindelini (Carabidae): atlas of beetles of Russia, which is part of the Zoological Institute, RAS, St. Petersburg site at: http://www.zin.ru/Animalia/Coleoptera/eng/index.htm. (A massive compilation of information and superb photographs. Click the flag to go to the Russian version if a page in English doesn't load.)
Tiger beetles are notable too for their larval stage.
Tiger beetle larva, undoubtedly Cicindela campestris, in its burrow (right-hand side of photograph), and another burrow, larva withdrawn below surface (left-hand side of photograph). Photographed in Perthshire, August 2002.
The larva excavates a deep burrow in the sandy soil and lurks at the opening ready to seize passing prey. They evidently have very acute eyesight, not only for capturing prey but also for avoiding capture themselves. The photograph shows two of several burrows in open, heathy ground on a Scottish Highland roadside (outside the geographical range of any but C. campestris). The slightest movement on the part of the author resulted in the instantaneous disappearance of the larvae, too fast for movement itself to be seen.
What appears to be the larval head is actually a combination of the head and a dorsal thoracic plate – the larva lurks in a hunched position with the head and thoracic plate together exactly filling the top of the burrow.
References • Forsythe, T.G., (2000). Ground Beetles. Naturalists' Handbooks 8, ed. 2, Richmond Publishing Co., Slough. • Harde, K.W., (1984). A field guide in colour to beetles, Octopus Books, London. • Joy, N.H., (1932). A practical handbook of British beetles, 2 vols., H., F.& G. Witherby, London. • Linssen, E.F., (1959). Beetles of the British Isles, series 1, F.Warne, London. • Luff, M.L., (2007). The Carabidae (ground beetles) of Britain and Ireland, Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects, vol 4 part 2 (2nd. ed.), Royal Entomological Society, St. Albans, & Field Studies Council, Shrewsbury. • Pearson, D.L., & Vogler, A.P., (2001). Tiger beetles. The evolution, ecology, and diversity of the cicindelids, Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
© A.J. Silverside
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