Status Federally threatened and state endangered.
The Name Cicindela puritana, Puritan tiger beetles, PTB. So named for they were first identified in Massachusetts, and for they way they prey. When they spot their prey with their large eyes, they sprint to catch it, like tigers.
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION They are cold-blooded, terrestrial, invertebrate animals. Their size ranges from 12mm. to 14mm (0.5 inch). They have a brown thorax and head with areas of dark greens, browns and bronzes. They have patterned elytra which are leathery wing covers that protect their wings located beneath. The patterns on these covers are white and symmetrical with a line running parallel to the pincers.
Physical Description Continued… Their large eyes help them spot their prey. Then they move quickly to capture their prey, running after the prey on long slender legs. Their name comes from their ferocity as hunters.
Speed Aggressive and highly skilled predators, PTB have been clocked as the fastest animal on earth. If they were the size of a horse they’d probably be running 200 or 300 miles per hour. In fact, they can run so fast that they are unable to process the incoming visual input, becoming blind, so they must stop to reorient themselves.
Hunting Technique PTB go through bursts of foraging activity, alternating with periods of standing still. When these speedy animals capture their prey, they grab it with their long, sword like mandibles, crush and tear the insect apart, and then spit up their saliva, which digests their prey even before they suck it up as a gooey stew. The PTB is carnivorous and at least a third level consumer. Their diet consists of small insects, flies and ants mainly.
Predators Dragonflies and robber flies may eat adults. Flies and wasps threaten the larva by laying parasitic eggs in larval burrows. If the fly and wasp eggs survive, the wasp larva attach themselves to the beetle larva and eat them alive. The parasitoid eggs, if successful, will hatch into larvae that attach to the back of the tiger beetle larva and eat it alive, eventually emerging from the burrow as an adult wasp or fly.
Life Cycle The PTB leads a life of remarkable contrasts. The Puritan tiger beetle’s life cycle is 2 years long. They spend about 96% of these 2 years as a larva. They are larva for 22 months spending much of their lives buried in the sand. The beetles go from eggs to larva and then molt several times to pupa, finally becoming adults.
Life Cycle Continued… During the summer months adults are active. The adults emerge anytime from late June to early August. This leaves them very little time as adults and little time to mate. Mating and egg laying occurs in mid August. The females place their eggs one by one just underneath the top layer of sand and then die.
Reproduction Females have been observed placing their eggs singly, just below the surface of the sand among scattered plants.
The Larvae After about a week, the eggs hatch into larvae about one-third of an inch long. The larvae dig a burrow an inch or two deep in the sand. After 2 to 4 weeks, the larvae molt into a slightly larger second stage, which dig deeper burrows, about 1.5 to 2 feet. By late October, these second-stage larvae close their burrows for the first of their two winter hibernations.
The Larvae continued… In April or early May of the next spring, they open their holes and are active for a month or two, then close their burrows again until early September, when they molt to the third and final larval stage. These larvae remain active until late fall when they close their burrows for their second winter. The following spring, they are active until about June, when they pupate and transform into adults. The adult beetles then emerge from their burrows and begin the cycle again.
HABITAT PTB are found in only two places in the world. The Chesapeake Bay and the Connecticut River, separated by over 600 miles. This beetle requires sandy beaches along both fresh and brackish water such as rivers, streams and estuaries. The beaches, often located at bends in the river, are generally dry, wide, and free of vegetation.
Habitat continued… These beaches are also where the tiger beetle’s prey are found. The PTB’s distribution follows the sand and clay deposits formed by glacial lakes during the last ice age. It depends on areas which are disturbed enough to remain relatively open and free of plant cover, but not so disturbed that they wash away. Their habitat can be covered by floods in almost any month of the year.
Range The PTB is found only in two small areas which are separated by over 600 miles. One area is along the Connecticut River, in New England, and the other along the Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland. In the Connecticut River Valley, the species distribution follows the sand and clay deposits formed by glacial lakes during the last ice age.
Calvert Cliffs, Maryland
Chesapeake Bay Populations These two populations are 110 km apart on opposite sides of the bay. These two populations were separated more 47.5 million years ago. The distribution of the PTB along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay spans about 40 km.
Peak abundance in the early to mid 90s. Lowest abundance for The numbers have increased since 2005 but are still well below peak abundance.
Listed: 8/7/1990 Threatened Status since listing: Declined Chesapeake Bay Population
The New England Population They inhabit the beaches along the Connecticut River in Connecticut and Massachusetts. The PTB was collected in several towns from Middletown to the Massachusetts border in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Presently, they are found at a single cluster of 3 small sites. The total population in New England is less than 1,000; more than 99 percent of the remaining New England population is found only in Connecticut.
Connecticut River Range
Connecticut River Population
Reason for Decline PTB populations are limited by the availability of sandy beach habitat along rivers, which tends to occur below large river bends. Some sites have been lost due to bank stabilization around cities and by habitat loss due to flooding behind dams. They are also threatened due to heavy recreational use. Adult PTB are most active on the beach at the same time as people are.
What can you do? Plants and animals which live on beaches are under great pressure from development and recreation. Remember that the beach you are on may be some creature's living room--tread softly and treat it with respect.
Sources Babione, Michelle “Bringing Tiger beetles Together” Endangered Species Bulletin Jan-Feb 2003 p28 “Beetle” The World Book Encyclopedia vol. 4 Chicago World Book inc p “Federally Endangered or Threatened Species” march U.S. fish and wildlife Jenner, Jan. Science Explorer; Animals. Needham Massachusetts: Prentice Hall Inc, 2002 “Puritan Tiger Beetle” Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection last update unknown “Tiger Beetles of the United States” U.S. Department of the Interior/U.S. Geological Survey White, Richard. Beetles Of North America / Text And Illustrations Norwalk: Houghton Mifflin Company 1963 Wirthy, Chris “Species Cicindela puritana-Puritan Tiger Beetle” Iowa State University Entomology uritan_Tiger_beetle.htm State of Connecticut; Department of Environmental Protection. Accessed at on 2/6/11.