revisiting Cicindela albissima

This spring the day after final exams ended I was off to southern Utah to begin work on a summer research project on the Coral Pink Sand Dunes tiger beetle, Cicindela albissima. This was my third trip out to the dunes and as ever I was eager to see these small but spectacular insects. As I have mentioned before on the blog this species is only found within the Coral Pinks Sand Dunes state park, mainly withing a small conservation area (outlined below).

In the coming months I’ll write more on the research itself , but for now a few photos (and a video) of the beetles. Below is an image of an adult female – there are occasionally individuals which have an isolated dark stripe near the rear edge of the elytra.

A third instar larva sits at the mouth of its burrow awaiting an unfortunate passerby

My stay was originally was to be just under two weeks but as my departure date drew closer and there was no sign of rain (a key trigger for the emergence of 1st instar larvae) I chose to prolong my stay by another week. The day after my planned departure a front blew in and brought the first rain to the dunes in over a month. In the early hours of the next day I made the short trek out to the dunes and the 1st instar larvae were all over – just what I had hoped for.

A 1st  instar larvae, removed from its burrow, crawls about in search of a place to dig a burrow

A scarred female C. albissima chews an unfortunete ladybeetle into an unrecognizable ball of mush

Similarly this beetle was vigorously shredding a mystery insect

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4 responses

  1. Amazing! The portraits are great. I have yet to manage such a tight shot on the head of a tiger beetle.

    June 30, 2010 at 12:58 am

  2. Are the 1st instars hatched but have their burrows sealed awaiting the rain, or do the rains actually trigger their emergence?

    July 8, 2010 at 8:57 pm

  3. Ted: I believe the larval hatching is triggered by the rain – without a good rain there will be a poor or no larval emergence.

    July 9, 2010 at 11:41 pm

  4. Adrian: Thank you – just takes a lot of time and tries to get close – try the morning when the temp is a bit lower

    July 9, 2010 at 11:48 pm

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