Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen... The Beetles!

My wife like to joke about my love of beetles.  The insect, not the rock band.  The band spelled its name Beatles (with an EA replacing the double E).

I like the band's music, but it only had four members.  The Order Coleoptera (beetles) has over 450,000 identified species!  This makes beetles the most diverse order of animal on Earth.

That means that there are always new species to discover.

Last Friday (31 July), I stopped at the Saginaw Chippewa Academy to photograph some of the flowers in the Native Pollinator Garden.  As I was walking around, I noticed several tiger beetles running along the sidewalk.  This is not something new,  the tiger beetles moved in several years ago. In the past, I have only seen Six-spotted Tiger Beetles (Cicindella sexguttata) in this location, but at least one of these beetles lacked the bright metallic green coloring and the distinctive white spots on its elytra (hard outer wing coverings that protect the fragile inner wings).

This beetle was more of a brown/gray color and had fainter spots on its elytra.  Tiger beetles are known for being very fast.  This means they can be very difficult to photograph. I managed to get only one photograph, but it was enough to make an identification.

Without further ado, the new-to-me beetle in the garden was a Backroad Tiger Beetle (Cicindella punctata).  The species is also known as the Punctured Tiger Beetle (hence punctata) and the Sidewalk Tiger Beetle.  The species is found across much of the United States east of the Rockies and into southern Canada.

Backroad Tiger Beetle (Cincidella punctata)

This cropped picture shows the faint markings on the elytra that helped me make the identification; however, color and markings are highly variable among individuals.  If I had seen a different individual, I may not have been able to come up with an ID.

Backroad Tiger Beetle (Cincidella punctata) - cropped image

Finding this species was exciting to me for a couple of reasons.  First of all simply because of the fact that it was a new species for me.  Second, finding predators such as tiger beetles in the garden means that there are other invertebrates present for them to prey upon and this means the garden is doing its job as a habitat.

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