Over 2,700 species of tiger beetles from the subfamily Cicindelinae exist worldwide. Although a seemingly large number, tiger beetles are spread across a wide range of habitats. For this reason, each species developed an array of colors, patterns, sizes, and behaviors in response to their unique environment.
The Ohlone Tiger Beetle (Cicindela ohlone), in particular, is a beautiful metallic green with light beige markings. First discovered in 1987, the Ohlone Tiger Beetle is endemic to the coastal prairies of Santa Cruz County, California in a patch of land only 24km2 in size. Beetles have four life stages: egg, larval, pupal, and adult. Each stage in the Ohlone Tiger Beetle’s life needs the bare ground of the coastal landscape to survive. Here, females lay eggs in a small hole. The larvae dig burrows where they hunt from, never leaving. The pupae close off the burrow entrance and remain in the ground. And adults forage along the bare ground. Invasive grasses, animal grazing, and urban development threaten the availability of bare ground, and thus, threaten this species.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 listed the Ohlone Tiger Beetle as an endangered insect in 2001, only 14 years after its discovery. Since then, conservation efforts help manage the population. Some people may question the importance of this management. Why should people care about a beetle when there are many more in the world? And is it fair to enforce regulations to help save the species?
The tiger beetle may not get the publicity like furrier endangered species, but there are reasons why people should care about them. They are important indicators of an environment’s health. It is a major concern if they go extinct. They also predate on pests, maintaining the integrity of the area. A study published in PLoS ONE verified that managing the tiger beetles habitat increase their survival. Therefore, management efforts are effective and worth continuing.
This blog series offers awareness of species listed by the Endangered Species Act of 1973 whose survival is either endangered or threatened. Awareness comes first. Then, action.
Cornelisse TM, Bennett MK, Letourneau DK (2013) The Implications of Habitat Management on the Population Viability of the Endangered Ohlone Tiger Beetle (Cicindela ohlone) Metapopulation. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71005. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0071005