Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Festive Tiger Beetle

No, not a state of being, A Name!

The name of the tiger beetle in question is:

Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris ssp. scutellaris)
(Click for a closer view)
A temperate zone tiger beetle

There are seven (7) distinctive populations recognized as scutellaris subspecies. At contact zones between most subspecies, considerable variation and inter-gradation can be evident.

Yes, our tiger beetle is dressed in his ‘festive’ best. He has a “smooth” and brightly metallic surface on the upper side. The dark green - blue head and thorax contrasts vividly with the intense reddish orange elytra.

This subspecies is the dominant form in the extreme western portions of the scutellaris species’ range, roughly west of the Missouri river. A broad contact zone with lecontei produces tremendous variability among individuals in eastern S. Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.

The only species likely to be confused with scutellaris is the Splendid Tiger Beetle (Cicindela splendidas) which has a dull matte finish on the elytra and usually some short tan maculations (spots).

There is at times great difficulty in identifying some species without them in hand. Lighting and angle of light can play an important part in identifying a tiger beetle from photographs. I have only recently come to realize that I should photograph them with both flash and natural light, and from different lighting angles.

Consider the follow photograph.

Is it a Festive Tiger Beetle (Cicindela scutellaris ssp. rugata) or a Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) without any maculations. By the angle of the photo we can eliminate the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle since both sexes of the Six-spotted have a white or whitish labrum (face). Notice the female in this photograph has a black labrum. So again, either several photographs are necessary or the right angle of viewing, as in this case, helps.

Cicindela sp. (possibly C. scutellaris rugata)

Following is a photograph of one of the most common tiger beetles encountered on the trail by hikers. They are bright green with four to six maculations (sometimes they have just two or even no maculations). Range is an important factor when making identifications or comparing with other plain green tiger beetles.

Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata)

Sharp-eyed "Fishing Guy" over at "This is my blog" (Click here) noticed that the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle has eight spots. Mid-line maculations, if enlarged, which they are in this case, may sometimes have additional very small spots.
Currently, 10 subspecies of the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle have been proposed, but current taxonomic analysis reveals that none are consistently different enough from one population to the next to list as separate subspecies. Maybe with more study or future thinking, this will be changed.

There are currently 119 species of tiger beetle in North America north of Mexico and another 114 recognized subspecies or geographically distinct sub-races.

After 50+ years as a birder, and many years photographing butterflies, looking at dragonflies, observing insects, being involved with spiders, and studying nature in general, I have decided it’s time for a new challenge. tiger beetles. I have heard other birders who have not seen a new life bird for their lists say they need a new challenge. Many avid butterfly photographers are long time birders.

At the recommendation of Doug Taron over at Gossamer Tapestry (click here), I have a new book called “Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada”. It’s a great book and may help to elevate my appreciation and understanding of the tiger beetles. However, there is a lot to be said for ‘dumb and happy’.

I would be glad to consider expert testimony as to any mis-identification of the individuals presented here.
All were photographed in varying habitats near Ft. worth, TX.



Scotty Graham said...

Hi Troy....

Finally able to hold onto a decent connection in order to comment on your blog....arrrgh.

your blog is always an educational experience mixed with some nice photos...great work!!

There is a reason why I provided a link to your blog...


judi/Gmj said...

I love being dumb and happy :) I have you and Martha to teach me beetle lore, all I want to know about tiger Beetles I have learned from you, thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

great macro and infos

Tom Arbour said...

Hi Troy-

Very nice post. I've been out with a few birders who have made tiger beetles there next challenge as well. Perhpas the most interesting one that I've seen is a beach dwelling species that in Ohio, only occurs on the beaches of Lake Erie. It is brownish. I need to look up the name....BRB.

Cicindela hirticollis

Thanks for sharing your tiger beetle pics and information!


Pappy said...

What is this, beetle sex photo week? First Jane then you. :) Great shots.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Troy: Well captured, those beetles have a lot of color. I counted 8 spots on the 6 spotted beetle.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

Great shots and info! They are pretty bugs.

John B. said...

Regardless of taxonomy, the beetles in Photo B look a bit more festive than the one in Photo A. :-)

Marvin said...

Excellent post (as usual). I enjoyed the information and great photos. Tiger beetles are interesting insects.

Unknown said...

What a magnificent capture, and such a dramatic sky. Karen

Doug Taron said...

I agree with your ID of C. scutellaris rugata. There is a fair bit of variability in the maculation of C. sexguttata. Great post and some really nice shots. Also, I'm jealous. Our subspecies of scutellaris isn't nearly as pretty as yours. I'm glad you are enjoying the field guide.

Peg said...

what a great blog--so many wonderful photos!

Anonymous said...

Hi Troy,

I also agree with your taxonomic assessments - nice pictures!

Great info, and thanks for visiting my site. I've got a few more tiger beetle posts in the works that will start appearing soon.