Alabama museum of natural history (Milt Ward); auburn university entomological collection (Charles Ray); mississippi entomological museum (Terry Schiefer); University of mississippi collection (Paul Lago)

“Tiger beetles, with their colorful appearance, interesting habits, and amazing diversity, have long attracted the attention of amateur naturalists and professional biologists” (Knisley & Schultz, 1997). You can certainly add photographers -- including me! -- to the group of folks who have been captivated by these fascinating insects.

There are over 100 species of tiger beetles in the United States; of these, 30 are known to occur in Alabama and/or Mississippi. Although the majority of species are rather dully colored, and often perfectly camouflaged to blend with their environment, others more than compensate with their brilliant colors of metallic green, red, or purple. These insects are active visual hunters, and their large eyes, long legs adapted for running, and huge sickle-shaped jaws are perfectly evolved for the task! They eat a variety of smaller organisms, mostly insects, and many species seem to prefer ants. Tiger beetles, despite their speed and ability to fly, are often prey items themselves; robber flies, lizards, or birds seem to be the usual culprits!

Tiger beetle larvae are also carnivores, but they prefer to ambush their prey from the safety of burrows dug in the substrate. They have a peculiar set of humps & hooks on the top of the abdomen that help hold them in place in the burrow.

Adult tiger beetles can be found from early spring to late fall in our area, but the exact timing depends largely on the life history of a particular species. Some tiger beetles have a life history which results in most adults being present in spring and/or autumn, while others are present during the summer. Some species are strongly associated with water, while other species are never found near water.

In addition to the institutions acknowledged above for generously allowing me to use the tiger beetle data in their collections, I’d like to thank Giff Beaton, Brian Holt, and Mike Thomas for sharing their expertise and for being such good company in the field. Thanks, guys!


Metallic Tiger Beetles

Tetracha carolina (Pan-American Metallic Tiger Beetle)

Tetracha virginica (Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle)


Common Tiger Beetles

Cicindela (Cicindela) duodecimguttata (Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) formosa (Big Sand Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) hirticollis (Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) nigrior (Autumn Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) patruela (Northern Barrens Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) purpurea (Cow Path Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) repanda (Bronzed Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) scutellaris (Festive Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) sexguttata (Six-spotted Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) splendida (Splendid Tiger Beetle)

Cicindela (Cicindela) tranquebarica (Oblique-lined Tiger Beetle)

American Tiger Beetles

Cicindelidia abdominalis (Eastern Pinebarrens Tiger Beetle)

Cicindelidia marginipennis (Cobblestone Tiger Beetle)

Cicindelidia ocellata (Ocellated Tiger Beetle)

Cicindelidia punctulata (Punctured Tiger Beetle)

Cicindelidia rufiventris (Eastern Red-bellied Tiger Beetle)

Cicindelidia trifasciata (S-banded Tiger Beetle)

Habro Tiger Beetles

Habroscelimorpha dorsalis (Eastern Beach Tiger Beetle)

Habroscelimorpha pamphila (Gulfshore Tiger Beetle)

Habroscelimorpha severa (Saltmarsh Tiger Beetle)

Eunot Tiger Beetles

Eunota togata (White-cloaked Tiger Beetle)

Rounded-thorax Tiger Beetles

Cylindera cursitans (Ant-like Tiger Beetle)

Cylindera unipunctata (One-spotted Tiger Beetle)

Ellipsed-winged Tiger Beetles

Ellipsoptera blanda (Sandbar Tiger Beetle)

Ellipsoptera cuprascens (Coppery Tiger Beetle)

Ellipsoptera gratiosa (Whitish Tiger Beetle)

Ellipsoptera hamata (Coastal Tiger Beetle)

Ellipsoptera lepida (Ghost Tiger Beetle)

Ellipsoptera wapleri (White Sand Tiger Beetle)