This is a third instar larvae of Cicindela albissima – the Coral Pink Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle. I found the larvae to be virtually unapproachable during the day, but at night, with a little patience, I could get right up to their burrows. The head and pronotal coloration of the larvae is quite vivid – one of the most colorful that I’ve seen.
I photographed this individual and many more while I was doing some fieldwork back in 2010. I’ll post a best of from that trip in the coming month, if time permits.
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
This little gem is the larva of Cicindela albissima, formerly C. limbata albissima – recent research showed that it is a separate species.
And an adult…
I photographed these individuals at Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, outside of Kanab, UT. This species is found only in the state park and adjoining BLM lands; with the bulk of the population found within a 300m x 2.7 km protected area of state park.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the conservation agreement between BLM, USFWS, Utah State Parks and Kane County which established the protected area. Before the agreement, these beetles were facing imminent habitat loss from off-road vehicle traffic, which de-stabilized the dunes and destroyed vegetation.