Facts & Identification
Adult tiger beetles are generally between 10 and 30 millimeters long with large eyes and long, stringy legs. Their mandibles are curved, and they often have elegant patterns on their wing covers. Some boast bright colors such as purple, blue or green. Young tiger beetles, called larvae, have very large heads and massive jaws.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
There are about 2,600 species and subspecies of known tiger beetles, and they are classified as such by their aggressive hunting tactics and incredible speed. A fully grown tiger beetle can run 120 times its body length every second to catch prey or a mate. They are found all over the world, but many are found in tropical regions.
The tiger beetle’s hunting process is impressive and aggressive. They feed on small insects and spiders, although they can occasionally be found eating prey larger than themselves. Their large, bulging eyes allow for an incredible ability to spot prey. However, as they dart after a meal, they lose vision due to their incredible speed. Their massive mandibles are used as swords to pierce their prey, and then they slowly disembody the insect as they eat it. To add to the brutality, tiger beetles use special saliva that jumpstarts the digestive process before its prey is fully eaten.
Females lay their eggs underground to protect offspring from predators. Once hatched, they go through three larval stages before adulthood. As larvae, tiger beetles are just as vicious. They hide in small burrows and wait for prey to approach before snapping their large heads upward to drag their captive back down to eat.
In the third larval stage, the larvae dig themselves into soil for the pupation stage of life, which lasts around three weeks. The tiger beetle then emerges from its burrow as an adult, though its exoskeleton takes some time to harden.