Carabidae: “Tiger! Tiger! In the Garden!”

If a Japanese Beetle could talk (Did someone say they couldn’t?), then the alarm would go out at the first sighting of the feared Tiger Beetle. Was it the stripes that gave it away? Perhaps the long tail? Or the fuzzy head? None of these! Speed – that’s the secret ingredient that makes the Tiger Beetle so ferocious and fearless.

Tiger Beetle? No!
Tiger Beetle? Yes!

There are 40,000 species of Tiger Beetles worldwide with almost 2,000 in North America. They live under mulch, on the seashore, in the desert, among weeds. Some are all black; some are brilliant green, red, or blue; some are dull brown. All are predacious as an adult and in larva form. They are opportunistic feeders. First on the menu might be a millipede – then may come a spider – then, perhaps, that luckless Japanese Beetle. All are quick and are among the fastest creatures on earth. They are so fast that after a spurt they have to stop and look around as they may have outrun the intended prey, Some coleoptrists say they stop to readjust their senses as they they lose visual contact with the world and their brain has to catch up with their legs which are always long, lanky, and ready.

Note the long legs of this Tiger, the bulging eyes, and mandibles.

Most Tigers are small – about an inch long although some jungle species might approach two inches. The head is small and good for seeing and eating and they have a relatively long neck giving them an ability to turn their head in most any direction. Most will fly short distances with the elytra protecting their wings but running is their passion and they do it well.

A Tiger resting in its sandy burrow.

Carabidae is the family name which includes Tigers and the familiar black Ground Beetle which quickly scurries away when leaves or mulch is brushed away. Ground Beetles are everywhere in Georgia and they have a thicker body, are mostly black, and love to eat anything that moves – people excluded. So next time you see something streak away from you on the ground, follow him and hopefully you will catch a glimpse of the Ground Beetle or his cousin – the more slender Tiger!

Ground Beetle hunting, searching, probing for a meal.

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