Missouri Tigers

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

eyes just above the mandibles.

Life Cycle

Like all other beetles, tiger beetles have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Eggs are laid in the soil and are rarely seen. The larva is like a caterpillar with a large, flattened head, two sickle-shaped jaws and a hooked hump on its back.

The larva digs a burrow in the soil and waits at the opening for prey to come close. Its flat head is camouflaged to match the surroundings and lies flush with the surface. When prey is within range, the larva springs out of its burrow, seizes the prey with its jaws and drags it back into the burrow. The hooked hump prevents the struggling prey from pulling the tiger beetle larva completely out of its burrow.

The larva spends its entire life in the burrow, molting periodically and enlarging the burrow as it grows. When fully developed, the larva closes the burrow, transforms into a pupa and emerges from the burrow as an adult beetle.

Tiger beetles may be active either during spring and fall or during summer. Adults of spring-fall species emerge from larval burrows in late summer or early fall as sexually immature individuals. They remain active for up to several weeks and then burrow back into the ground during the winter. In the spring, they re-emerge sexually mature. They mate and lay eggs, and then die during summer. Eggs hatch during summer, and larvae complete their development the following summer.

Adults of summer species emerge as sexually mature individuals in early summer. They mate and lay eggs, and then die by the end of summer. Eggs hatch in summer, and larvae complete their development the following spring. Some species may require an additional year or two to develop, especially in northern climates.

Field Identification

Compared to most other groups of insects, tiger beetles are relatively easy to identify in the field. In most cases, each species of tiger beetle in Missouri has a unique pattern of white markings on its wing covers. This pattern, along with body color, is used to identify species.

Tiger beetles are often quite wary, so one must approach them very slowly to observe them.

Although some species live in a variety of habitats, others have specific preferences regarding soil type, moisture, salinity, slope, sunlight and vegetation. Knowing the habitat preferences for individual species also aids in identifying them.

Some of Missouri's tiger beetles live in riparian habitats, especially on sandbars

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