Photos and text by Steve Marshall

Cicindela sexguttata:
C. sexguttata Ontario's most familiar tiger beetle is a metallic green species, an iridescent insect which regularly provides a flash of colour to spring woodland walks. Cicindela sexguttata, called the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle despite the fact that some individuals have only 5, 2, or even no white spots, usually appears early in spring, having spent the winter as an adult hidden in the same burrow it had pupated in the previous fall (a very few adults can still be found in fall). Like all our adult tiger beetles, Six-spotted Tiger Beetles are voracious hunters that hang out on sunny vantage points using their massive eyes to scan  for potential prey, and for potential predators. Homo sapiens evidently falls in the latter category, as a result of which most people first notice tiger beetles as they make short, rapid escape flights, always seeming to stay several meters distant. With a careful approach, however,  C. sexguttata can be observed on exposed rocks, soil, logs, and even tree trunks in the open forest they prefer. Most of our other tiger beetles hunt from open sand or other particular types of bare ground, usually in the vicinity of the particular types of soils required by their bizarre burrowing larvae.

Cicindela patruela:
This tantalizingly rare tiger beetle is a stunning species with an iridescent green background colour marked with characteristic  large, ivory-white, markings that distinguish it from the similar, but very common Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). It is also the rarest of Ontario tiger beetles. Fifty years ago it was known from  the Ottawa area, but the only known extant populations are from Pinery Provincial Park and surrounding sites in Lambton County. Most of our records of this elusive species are from spring or late summer.

Cicindela denikei:
The closest relative of the Six-spotted Tiger Beetle,  such a close relative it was considered a mere subspecies of C. sexguttata until recently, is so fussy about where it lives, it is easiest to identify by its habitat. If you are lucky enough to see a bright green tiger beetle sitting on open pavement alvars on Manitoulin Island or similar habitats right along Ontario's western border, the odds are you are looking at our second rarest (and most globally rare) tiger beetle, C. denikei. This scarce species usually has only 2 or 3 small spots, in contrast with most specimens of C. sexguttataCicindela denikei larvae are the only tiger beetle larvae which make their burrows under rocks, as befits their unusual habitat (something only recently documented by Mike Kaulbars, when he was a Lakehead University student working with the Canadian doyen of tiger beetle specialists, Professor Freitag).  Most tiger beetles burrow in open, usually sandy, places where their round, open burrow entrances join wasp and bee diggings in giving such places the pock-marked appearance that tells the astute observer that much of interest is going on. The larvae themselves are rarely seen, as they usually pull deep into their burrows upon the approach of a big vertebrate. Adults are usually seen in May and June.

Cicindela repanda:
Open, sandy areas support most of Ontario's tiger beetles, and many are reliably found in huge numbers in the right kind of habitat. Sandy shores throughout the province, at least those that are not too trampled, usually support huge numbers of our most common tiger beetle, Cicindela repanda, especially in spring and late summer. Cicindela repanda is one of a number of superficially similar, brownish tiger beetles found in the province, and is separated from similar species by the shallow C-shaped marking on the shoulder, and the complete squiggly line near the middle of each wing cover. Similar species either have different markings on the shoulders or have the squiggly line on the wing cover absent or  broken up into pieces as in Cicindela duodecimguttata.

Cicindela duodecimguttata:
Cicindela duodecimguttata (the Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle) sometimes occurs in small numbers with C. repanda, but also shows up on gravel dams and other places which lack masses of C. repanda. This species seems to prefer sheltered areas, as opposed to the open beaches frequented by C. repanda, and likes a mixture of moist sand and organic soil.

Cicindela tranquebarica:
A common species which sometimes gets mixed up with C. repanda is the widespread species C. tranquebarica, which has the hind part of the shoulder marking elongated, like a finger pointing onto the middle of the wing cover. Cicindela tranquebarica can be found in all sorts of open, well-drained, sandy and gravelly habitats early in the spring, but eggs are laid early and this species is rarely seen from late spring till late summer.

Cicindela hirticollis:
Cicindela hirticollis, which has a G-shaped shoulder mark unlike the C-shape of the otherwise similar C. repanda, is associated with extensive sand shorelines, mostly along the Great Lakes and the Ottawa river. This is a hard species to find, as it no longer occurs at some of the relatively few Ontario sites where it has been found in the past, probably because of shoreline development. Where they do occur, C. hirticollis adults are usually found in great numbers, and can be found from May till September.



Cicindela lepida:
The disappearance of our rarest tiger beetles from previously occupied, apparently suitable habitat is a recurring theme, repeated for Cicindela patruela, Cicindela hirticollis, and another tantalizingly hard to find species called Cicindela lepida (the White Tiger Beetle or Ghost Tiger Beetle). White Tiger Beetles are found only on open areas of pure, very fine, white or yellow sand, especially inland areas of open, loose, deep, undisturbed sand during late summer or early fall. Pale and superbly camouflaged, they are virtually invisible against a sandy background, and are easiest to spot by their shadows!  C. lepida has disappeared from some areas because of  reforestation, development or dirt bike activity. One can still find dense but highly localized populations of White Tiger Beetles in the Ottawa valley and in the Long Point area. Look for them very late in the summer or early fall.

Cicindela punctulata:
Most of Ontario's tiger beetle species can be easily and reliably found within a few hours drive of southern Ontario's largest cities. Some, like Cicindela punctulata, can be found throughout the late summer and early fall on almost any dry, sunny areas with mixtures of open sand and scattered grasses. Gravel pits and open farm tracks are good bets for these small, dark tiger beetles with inconspicuous punctures and variable tiny white markings. Cicindela punctulata often co-occurs with the much more attractive Cicindela scutellaris in inland sandy areas.

Cicindela scutellaris:
Cicindela scutellaris, by far the most abundant species in southern Ontario's inland dunes, blowouts, and open sand roads, varies in background colour from purple to green, but can be easily recognized by the extensive white markings restricted to the edge of the wing covers. This common species can be found during most spring and summer months.

Cicindela formosa:
The most conspicuous tiger beetle of inland dunes and sand blowouts, especially those close to the Great Lakes, is our largest tiger beetle, Cicindela formosa. These big brown or reddish brown beetles are distinctive not only for their size, but also for the cream-coloured markings that extend in a broad band around the edge of the wing covers, and extend onto the wing covers as thick, finger-like extensions. These elegant beetles occur as far north as Orillia and Ottawa, but they are most common farther south where large numbers can be seen in spring. Some adults can still be found through to late August.

Cicindela longilabris:
Most of the conspicuous dune tiger beetles of southern Ontario drop  off as one heads north. For example, the sand dunes of the upper Bruce Peninsula are conspicuously devoid of the Cicindela formosa and C. scutellaris one would expect in similar habitats further south. The tip of the Bruce, however, supports some interesting northern insects, and the dunes of Bruce Peninsula National Park have recently been found to support Ontario's southernmost populations of Cicindela longilabris, the big, black tiger beetle typical of boreal regions of Canada. Also found on Manitoulin Island and in the Ottawa region, these beetles can be found from June till August. They prefer sunny spots in open coniferous forests, especially if there are small sand patches.

Cicindela purpurea:
Cicindela purpurea (the Purple Tiger Beetle) is a hard-to-find species that likes sparsely vegetated, non-sandy areas like blueberry fields, lichen barrens, and vegetated alvars. Purple tiger beetles are widespread but not common and only active in spring and fall. The Purple Tiger Beetle is somewhat similar to C. limbalis (The Green-margined Tiger Beetle), a similarly coloured species which differs from C. purpurea by having shoulder patches and much more extensive wing markings.Green-Margined Tiger Beetle).

Cicindela limbalis:
Cicindela limbalis, (the Green-margined Tiger Beetle) is one of our most attractive tiger beetles, with a purplish lustre and bold elytral markings. Although Green-margined Tiger Beetles are widespread in the province, they are rarely seen. Look for them in spring, especially on clay banks.

Comments to samarsha@uoguelph.ca
Last updated:  4/iii/2000