Posted 19th Mar 2018
Britain's largest tiger beetle is on the prowl on some special southern heathlands
Velvety brown in colour, and with pale cream lightning flashes on the wing cases (elytra), the heath tiger beetle is a formidable predator which has large eyes and a fearsome pair of jaws. The adults are quick hunters, running across bare ground to catch their invertebrate prey. In their larvae stage, they spend two years sitting in a tunnel in the sand, ambushing any passers-by for a tasty snack.
However, this tiger is in trouble. Over half of the heath tiger beetle's populations are thought to have disappeared in the last 25 years, and they are now only found on a few dry heathlands in Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. In the past few years, Surrey Wildlife Trust has been busy creating new habitat for the endangered hunters on some of their reserves, cutting back invading birch and pine trees and clearing areas of bare sand. They have also been working to restore Sussex heaths for the beetle.
How to do it
Adult tiger beetles can be found from April through to the start of September, but they will be at their most visible and numerous in the early summer in July. Pick a slightly cloudy day, when the adults will be a bit slower, and find a southerly-facing spot for your chance of a glimpse. The adults will be very fast hunters, often running ahead of you and then flying if surprised. Instead, try looking for the larval tunnels, small circular holes in the path.
If you can't get to the special places listed below...
Of Britain's five tiger beetles, only the green tiger beetle is common and widespread. Iridescent green with pale spots and metallic pinky-bronze legs, try tracking it down (or seek its larval burrows) on bare sandy areas in heathland and moorland, in sand dunes or on sunny slopes on downland.
Surrey Wildlife Trust’s heath tiger beetle project has improved habitat in a variety of sensitive and fragile places. For a chance of spotting this handsome tiger try Ash Ranges (but only when the MoD’s red flags are down!)
Text and information courtesy of the Wildlife Trusts / image courtesy of © J Adler