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Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle Larva at Work

7-24-14 tiger beetle adult and larva 040Without doubt, I have one of the most erudite readerships in the land of blogs. Several people recognized this uncommon phenomenon. To clear up a few misconceptions, however, being a male, this dragonfly was not laying eggs. Neither was it fertilizing them – male dragonflies perform this act when coupled with a female. This Chalk-fronted Corporal had the misfortune to sun itself on a tiger beetle-inhabited patch of sand. One of the most aggressive groups of insect predators is the tiger beetle family. They are especially known for their speed – up to 5.6 mph, which is comparable to a human running 480 mph. If you watch an adult tiger beetle hunting, you’ll notice that it stops and starts frequently. This is because it runs so fast it goes blind — its brain has trouble processing the information it sees, and the beetle must stop to regain its sight.

The larvae of the Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle live in tunnels that they dig in the sand (some of you noticed tiny holes near the dragonfly) that can be up to a foot deep. The larvae have hooks located on the back of their abdomen to anchor them to the side of the burrow. Tiger beetle larvae are also predators, and after digging a tunnel the Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle will crawl up it until just the top of its head is visible. From this position the larva watches for prey wandering by. When it sees a potential meal, such as yesterday’s dragonfly, it flips backwards faster than you can blink an eye and grabs its prey, pulling it down as far as it can into its tunnel, where it safely feasts on its catch. The portion of the Chalk-fronted Corporal’s abdomen that was inside the tiger beetle tunnel was completely consumed except for the outer skeleton.

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10 responses

  1. That is an incredible story. Thanks for sharing.

    July 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

  2. Kathie Fiveash

    The hunting style is a lot like an ant lion.

    July 24, 2014 at 1:00 pm

  3. Kathie Fiveash

    Mary, are there any dragonflies that do not lay their eggs in water or on water

    July 24, 2014 at 1:04 pm

  4. Not that I am aware of, Kathie, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any! Will see if I can find out.

    July 24, 2014 at 1:20 pm


    That was the most amazing, fascinating bit of information I have read in a long time. I kept saying, “Wow! Wow!”  It was that good!

    Thanks so much,


    July 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    • I’m so glad you were as fascinated as I was by this, Judi. Probably my best find of the summer – so far! Often my insect posts don’t get much response, so I’m grateful others found this one interesting.

      July 24, 2014 at 1:38 pm

  6. Kerry Ryer-Parke

    Very cool! Thanks for the daily reminder of how complicated and interesting everything is out there- it’s easy to forget.

    July 24, 2014 at 1:49 pm

  7. Margaret Holden

    Aha, sightseeing on your time off!

    Sent from my iPhone

    July 24, 2014 at 4:05 pm

  8. Wow! That was fascinating that Tiger Beetle is one heck of an aggressive little b*stard! 🙂

    July 25, 2014 at 12:38 pm

  9. Wow, totally fascinating! Law of the jungle in action. Thanks, Mary!

    July 25, 2014 at 6:18 pm

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