Missouri Tigers

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 9, 2010

along large rivers. The common shore tiger beetle (Cicindela repanda) is the most common species encountered on sandbars. However, one also may find hairy-necked tiger beetles (C. hirticollis) and, possibly, coppery tiger beetles (C. cuprascens). These species are brown like the sand of their habitat, making them difficult to see until they move. Another riparian species, the twelve-spotted tiger beetle (C. duodecimguttata), prefers muddy stream banks and pond margins. Its color is much darker than the sandbar species.

Several other Missouri tiger beetles prefer dry soils in upland habitats. Road and erosion cuts in clay soils are especially attractive to them. These soils tend to be red and sparsely populated with small green plants. Therefore, it's not surprising that the species encountered in this habitat, such as clay bank tiger beetles (C. limbalis), cow path tiger beetles (C. purpurea) and splendid tiger beetles (C. splendida) tend to be largely red and green in color. Adults often colonize steep banks.

Several other upland species prefer dry sand habitats, such as old road cuts through sand soils, dry sand pits and clearings in pine-oak forest with sandy soils. The big sand tiger beetle (C. formosa) is a handsome species found throughout the state in such habitats. Smooth tiger beetles (C. scutellaris) also prefer these habitats but appear to be restricted to the southeastern part of the state.

A few Missouri tiger beetles live in relatively dense woodlands. They include the six-spotted tiger beetle (C. sexguttata), which is perhaps the most commonly encountered tiger beetle in the state. It has a brilliant, metallic green color and congregates in sunny forest openings. Woodland hikers often see these beetles during spring, but usually not until they take flight.

The saline spring tiger beetle (C. circumpicta johnsonii), has the most specific habitat requirements. It is restricted to saline soils around natural salt springs in central Missouri. Adults are bright violet-blue with white markings, making them quite visible. These saline communities are extremely rare in Missouri. Protecting them will help ensure the survival of this vivid tiger beetle species, as well as other unusual plants and animals.

Some tiger beetle species are generalists, which means they live in many different habitats. For example, punctured tiger beetles (C. punctulata) live in disturbed land, trails, road cuts, sand pits, agricultural fields and even city lawns. Red-bellied tiger beetles (C. rufiventris) live on gravel, rock outcroppings and coarse sand. Oblique-lined tiger beetles (C. tranquebarica) prefer sandy areas, alkaline or saline flats, creek banks and trails.

Threats to tiger beetles

Tiger beetles require suitable habitat, so human activities can have a significant impact on their distribution and abundance. Dredging and straightening natural water courses threaten species that prefer the water's edge, while fire suppression endangers those that need dry, open habitats.

Conversely, road, borrow sand pit and pond construction have increased habitat for some tiger beetle species. Insect collecting is sometimes cited as a threat to rare species, but this has been documented as a direct factor in only a few cases in which the species has a highly specific preference for limited habitat, does not disperse well and is easy to capture.

To collect insects of any kind in Missouri, one must possess a wildlife collector's permit. Additional permits may be required on certain public lands. Applications for wildlife collector's permits are available from the Missouri Department of Conservation.


Tiger beetle conservation is important, and amateur naturalists can help the effort by contributing valuable information. Several organizations in Missouri currently monitor local butterfly populations through annual counts, and the same could be done with tiger beetles. In fact, tiger beetles are easier to identify in the field than many butterflies, making them especially suitable for conservation study.

Photographing or collecting specimens increases our knowledge about their distribution in the state, and noting the presence of larvae identifies whether or not populations are successfully breeding. Such observations will be more valuable if locality, date, habitat and other information is document.

If you would like to help with tiger beetle conservation in Missouri, contact the Missouri departments of Conservation or Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, the Audubon Society, or Webster Groves Nature Study Society office for ideas.

For more information about tiger beetles visit < entomol/nebraska_tigers/tigers_home.htm> on the Internet.

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