A Living Jewel – Madecassia rothschildi

In North America, beetles in the family Buprestidae are commonly referred to as “metallic woodboring beetles.” This may be a perfectly adequate name—accurate and descriptive, but it’s also a bit dry and not terribly imaginative. Personally, I much prefer the moniker given to these beetles by the rest of the world—”jewel beetles!” No other name better captures the essence of these dazzling insects—brilliant, sparkling, even gaudy in coloration and with the most exquisite of surface sculptures, and no other group of buprestids better typifies jewel beetles at their most extreme than the great tribe Chrysochroini—the ‘‘classic’’ jewel beetles! Members of this tribe are found throughout the world (Chalcophora, Texania, Lampetis and Dicerca are the most familiar North American genera) but reach their zenith in the ancient rainforests of Africa and southeast Asia—big, beautiful beetles with screaming iridescence of green, red, yellow and blue. Living jewels!

I have a fair number of chalcophorines in my collection, and among the more recent acquisitions is this fine specimen of the species Madecassia rothschildi. One of a pair of specimens given to me by friend and world buprestid-expert Chuck Bellamy, this larger of the two measures a whopping 45 mm in length (that’s almost 2 inches, folks!), surely near the top end of the range for this genus and paling only against such giants as Euchroma and Megaloxantha. The reddish-brown eyes on a brilliant green head, turquoise legs and white-flecked, wine-colored elytra are enough to make it stand out, but it is the distinctive yellow-lime “false eyes” that made me do a double-take when I first laid eyes on them after opening the box. A closer look at the eye spots reveals the yellow-lime area to be densely pulverescent.

Madecassia rothschildi and the two other species placed in the genus all hail from Madagascar (Bellamy 2008). This particular species must be rather common despite the well-chronicled disappearance of Madagascar’s native forests, as a quick Google search of the species name (or its older synonym, Lampropepla rothschildi) brings up a multitude of web sites for commercial insect dealers with this species in stock. The combination of its size, coloration, and availability must make it a popular item among philatelic collectors, and although I’m not a big fan of buying insects, I can understand the desire to purchase something as spectacular as this.

I’ll be the first to admit that these photos aren’t nearly as striking as Gianfranco Merati‘s photos of Polybothris sumptuosa, but they do well illustrate the iridescence that is common to these beetles. Iridescent coloration is due not to pigments in the exoskeleton, but rather the physical properties of different layers in the insect cuticle that reflect light of specific wavelengths in different directions (hence, resulting in apparent color shifts depending on the angle at which the subject is viewed).

Despite its commonness, it seems that virtually nothing known about the life history of this species or the host plants that it utilizes. Records in Madagascar are all from the south (Bellamy 2006), but all other references to this species consist exclusively of catalogue listings. A large, conspicuous, abundant species such as this almost begs for ecological studies—the “eye spots” can be presumed to function in predator avoidance, but how? What is the purpose of the dense brush of hairs inside the labrum (upper lip) and next to the mandibles, and why is the labrum itself so acutely emarginated? Adults are largely reproducers, not feeders—do these structures serve some other function not related to feeding? What about the dense covering of “pits” over most of the body surfaces—presumably they contain chemoreceptors for smell, but what? Host plant volatiles? Mates? Humidity? So many questions, so few answers. Imagine the even greater paucity of knowledge that exists for its smaller, less conspicuous relatives that also make their homes in the forests of Madagascar (most of them probably not adapting as well to the man-induced changes of the past century).

Congratulations to Tim Eisele, whose 13 pts not only nets him the win in Super Crop Challenge #11 but also moves him up to 2nd place in the overall standings for BitB Challenge Session #5 with 29 pts. Mr. Phidippus‘s 12 pts  just missed the win but keep him in well in command atop the overall standings at 43 pts. Strong showings by Dorian Patkus (11 pts) and Dennis Haines and Roy (10 pts each) also keep them in the overall hunt with 20, 25 and 28 pts, respectively. I suspect the top spot is now a lock, but it looks like we’ve got a real battle brewing for the remaining podium spots. There will be at least one more challenge in the current challenge session, and for the first time I am considering consolation prizes to the final 2nd and 3rd podium spots as well, so everybody will want to make sure they participate in the next challenge.


Bellamy, C. L. 2006. Insecta Coleoptera Buprestidae de Madagascar et des îles voisines. Catalogue annoté. Faune de Madagascar 92:1–267.

Bellamy, C. L.  2008. World catalogue and bibliography of the jewel beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestoidea),  Volume 1: Introduction: fossil taxa; Schizopodinae; Buprestidae: Julodinae—Chrysochroinae: Poecilonotini.  Pensoft Series Faunistica 76: 1-625.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Super Crop Challenge #11

It’s been almost 3 weeks since the last challenge, so how about a Super Crop Challenge? Okay, not a true super crop as this is a full-sized photo (is that a hint?), but since it’s a close-up view of a limited area of the subject I’ll call it such. What is shown in the photo below, and what is the beautiful beastie that owns it? I’ll give 2 pts each for structure name and owner order and family. Genus identification is probably a stretch (though not impossible), so I’ll give 2 pts as well for correct subfamily and/or tribe.  Standard challenge rules apply, including moderated comments (although tie-breaker points will be awarded to early birders with correct answers) and bonus pts for additional relevant information at my discretion. Good luck!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Another cover photo

Issue 43(4) of Cicindela (A quarterly journal devoted to Cicindelidae) is now hitting mailboxes (my copy arrived earlier this week), and for the second issue in a row the cover features one of my tiger beetle photos. Gracing the cover this time is the recently rediscovered Cicindelidia floridana, known only from a small area in the Miami metropolitan area of south Florida, and which I was fortunate to have the opportunity to see this past summer. Because the species is regarded as critically imperiled and a likely candidate for listing as an endangered species, the precise whereabouts of its habitat have not been disclosed. So far I am one of only a few people who have had the chance to photograph it in the field.

Now, some of you may think that because I serve as Layout Editor for the journal that I can horn in and put one of my own photographs on the cover whenever I want. This is not the case, and it was only because Managing Editor Ron Huber asked me if I had anything for the issue that I supplied the photo after having just done so for the previous issue. In actuality, we encourage others to submit their tiger beetle photographs for consideration, and since a majority of U.S. species have already been featured at some point over the years we especially encourage ex-U.S. photographers to submit their photos so that we can limit repetition. Obviously, C. floridana has never been featured on the cover before now, so it was a no-brainer choice for this issue.

The issue contains two delightful papers. The first is another by Mathew Brust on the stunningly gorgeous Cicindela pulchra that discusses not only additional northern range extensions in South Dakota and Wyoming, but also the rediscovery of the species in Nebraska far from the single previously known collection record in the state nearly 100 years ago! It is amazing to me that one of North America’s most conspicuously beautiful tiger beetle species has gone undetected for so long in such a large part of its range. The second paper by Dave Brzoska and Ron Huber is a long overdue biography of tiger beetle icon Norman Rumpp, who in his professional life was a rocket scientist (literally!) and as an avocation became one of North America’s leading authorities on tiger beetles (I am proud to claim ownership of Rumpp’s nearly complete set of The Coleopterists Bulletin). In addition to numerous publications and unpublished reports on tiger beetles in the western U.S., Rumpp described 12 species and subspecies of tiger beetles—including three of the western sand dune endemics that I have featured in recent weeks (Cicindela scutellaris yampae, C. arenicola, and C. albissima). What may not be appreciated is Rumpp’s sense of humor—well, just read the paper and see!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

“My peripatetic quest for North America’s rarest tiger beetles”

This week I gave a presentation on my latest Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip to the Entomology Group of the Webster Groves Nature Study Society. With the exception of a brief 5 year period in the early 1990s while I lived in California, I’ve been active with this local nature study group for the past 30 years (and serving as newsletter editor since 2009). I’ve given my share of entomology presentations over the years to both professional and amateur audiences, but no matter how far I might travel or the size of the audience, I always enjoy my time with this small group of local entomologists. They are my roots—the people with whom I learned to collect and began my explorations of Missouri and beyond. We are joined not only by the bonds of common interest, but by shared experiences as well. There was a good turn out for the presentation, and my thanks to the Group for the interest they showed.

Nine days, ten states, 4,300 miles:
My peripatetic quest for North America’s rarest tiger beetles

The photographs used in the presentation have been seen in various posts here over the past few months, but I thought some may appreciate the chance to see them all together in presentation format. A PDF version of the original Powerpoint presentation can be downloaded by clicking on the link above (although with a file size of just over 18 MB a high-speed internet connection is recommended). My thanks to David Pearson, Professor of Biology at Arizona State University, for permission to include in the posted version scanned images and distribution maps from his supremely useful A Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of the United States and Canada (the bible of North American cicindelophiles¹).

¹ If you have not yet bought this most excellent book, paperback versions can be bought new for as little as $41.74. Buy it and you’ll never fail another BitB tiger beetle ID Challenge!

If you download the presentation, please remember that all materials are copyright Ted C. MacRae unless attributed otherwise and may not be used without permission (personal use excepted) .

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae

Return to Calico Rock

Sandstone glade | nr. Calico Rock, Arkansas.

Although western sand dune endemics were the top goals on my  during last fall’s Annual Tiger Beetle Trip, I started the trip by leaving St. Louis in the most unlikeliest of directions—south! No, I wasn’t trying to get to Denver without having to drive the tedious stretch of I-70 through Kansas. Rather, I wanted to take advantage of the chance to witness active adults of the Missouri/Arkansas disjunct population of Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina (prairie tiger beetle)—perhaps my favorite of all tiger beetle species—on the sandstone glades near Calico Rock in north-central Arkansas. Widely disjunct from the main population’s eastern limit of distribution in central Texas, I’ve seen them at many locations in the White River Hills of southwestern Missouri and adjacent Arkansas over the past ten years, but never in the area around Calico Rock where they are best known from the state. I already had precise localities where I knew I could see them, as I had found 3rd-instar larvae earlier in the year (some of which had already emerged as adults), so I wanted see them and document the range of variability exhibited by adults at this southeasternmost known extent of the disjunct population’s distribution.

Cicindelidia obsoleta vulturina | nr. Calico Rock, Arkansas.

Although the adults were not quite as numerous as I have found them at certain sites in Missouri, I had no trouble finding them once I got to the area where I had collected the larvae this past June. While showing Steve Spomer our Missouri population last year, he commented that our Missouri adults seemed much less flighty than adults he had seen at Calico Rock. I must say that I agree with him, as I found the adults much more difficult to photograph than those in Missouri. To be honest, I had to stalk nearly ten individuals before the male in the photo above finally allowed me to get close to him. When adults are numerous this is not a problem, but in this case every failed attempt required several more minutes of searching for the next subject. Eventually, however, I got my mojo and started having success with the photographs.

Unlike true spring-fall species, mating occurs in fall instead of spring.

In the main population, and like other members of the genus Cicindelidia, adults are active during the summer months and exhibit the classic “summer” species life history. The Missouri/Arkansas disjunct population, however, shows a phenologic shift in adult activity to the cooler fall months—perhaps in response to the generally droughty conditions that prevail during the summer in this part of the country followed by rains during late summer and into fall. (This is one reason why I think this population may be deserving of separate subspecific status.) In this regard they appear to be “spring-fall” species, but their life history does not match true members of that group, which emerge during fall as sexually immature adults, hibernate during winter, and re-emerge during spring for mating and oviposition. Thus, one never sees adults of classic spring-fall species like Cicindela limbalis mating during the fall. In contrast, adults of this disjunct population emerge, mate, and lay eggs all during the fall before the onset of winter, then they’re done. The eggs hatch during fall and require another season or two to reach 3rd-instar and pupate during the summer for fall emergence.

Coloration likely functions in crypsis, as shown by this individual nestled in amongst moss and lichens.

When viewed as prepared specimens in a cabinet, C. obsoleta and its subspecies are among the most conspicuous of species due to their large size (in Missouri and Arkansas only Tetracha virginica is larger), olive green coloration, and bold white maculations. More than likely, however, the combination of color and markings serve a crypsis function in their native habitat. This is clearly evident with the individual in the above photograph, who had retreated to a moss- and lichen-covered rock crevice in his efforts to evade my lens. Squint your eyes a little bit, and he almost disappears! It must be similar for visually based predators such as birds and lizards.

On more open ground and from a lower angle, the beetle is much more visible.

This same individual, however, becomes quite visible when chased onto more open rock surfaces (and viewed more laterally than from above). It is common to see individuals out in the open such as this, but more often than not when alarmed they fly or run to less exposed areas, relying on their cryptic coloration to avoid detection. In fact, when I follow beetles that have evaded me to the spot where I am sure they must have landed, I often fail to see them even though I am looking almost exactly in the area where they are sitting until they start to crawl and their movement catches my attention.

A rather greenish individual tries to hide amongst lichens and shortleaf pine duff.

I have observed a great deal of variability in coloration and maculation at locations in Missouri, with individuals ranging from bright green to dull olive-green to dark green and even brown, and the markings ranging from complete to interrupted. I saw a similar amount of variability in the Calico Rock population, with the exception of brownish (which I have only seen at the northernmost localities in Missouri) and fully maculated individuals. Most of the Calico Rock individuals were dull olive-green, but the female in the above photo (trying to evade my attentions by hiding amongst lichens and pine duff) was as bright a green as I’ve seen in any individual.

A very weakly maculate individual.

As mentioned above, I didn’t seen any individuals that I would consider fully maculated, and several that I saw were more weakly maculated than any I’ve seen in Missouri. The female in the photograph above was the most weakly-marked individual that I saw, with the lateral and median bands greatly interruped—the latter nearly reduced to small discal spots.

A dark, almost blackish female.

While I did not see brownish individuals as I have seen at the northernmost localities in Missouri, I did see the occasional blackish individual—the one in the above photograph also exhibiting about the greatest degree of macular development that I observed among the adults seen. My impression now is that there are clinal patterns to the coloration and macular development in this disjunct population, with markings tending to be more developed in northern localities. With the specimens collected from this and the many other locations throughout the disjunct population’s range that I have now sampled, a more critical assessment of variability in this population may now be possible.

Beetle's-eye view of sandstone glade habitat.

It has become standard practice for me to photograph tiger beetle habitats whenever I can. However, I’ve become interested recently in trying to understand how tiger beetles perceive their own habitats. While this isn’t possible to know precisely, ground level photographs can provide at least a clue into seeing the world from a beetle’s eye. I almost find this perspective of the glade habitat more interesting than the human perspective shown in the first photograph.

The last sight that their prey sees.

There can be little doubt about what the beetles themselves look like from the perspective of their prey. The photograph above may not properly represent the image generated by an insect’s collective ommatidia, but it certainly must be just as frightening!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

A Modest Model for Mimicry

Spring is still a long way off but it’s times like these that I draw on past experiences so I can continue to be thrilled by insect natural history even during the coldest of months.  In this case I am thinking back seven years ago to my first encounter with a warty leaf beetle.  These beetles are certainly unremarkable for their size or coloration but the “set-up” shot below attempts to illustrate what is amazing about warty leaf beetles.  Can you pick out the single individual warty leaf beetle (Exema sp.) among caterpillar frass (aka caterpillar poop)? 

Figure 1. Set-up shot with Exema sp. and caterpillar frass

If you had trouble finding the beetle in the above image then check out the next image and you’ll see the beetle has “sprouted” a head, legs, and antennae.

Figure 2. Set-up shot with Exema sp. and caterpillar frass

I don’t know what caught my eye the first time I encountered a warty leaf beetle on the foliage of a small shingle oak while exploring a woodland edge in Perry Co., MO.  It probably helped that it was one of the larger species of the genus Neochlamisus but it still only measured about 3-4 mm.  One thing I do remember about the encounter, though, is that there was something about it that made me do a double take.  My first thought was exactly what the beetle might have hoped, that it was caterpillar frass.  But this frass had legs (Figs. 3 and 4)!  I was at first incredulous but soon became enthralled as I beheld something that I had never noted while flipping through field guides.  I had once again stumbled across something that I would never have imagined—a beetle that mimics caterpillar poop!

Figure 3. Neochlamisus sp. on shingle oak

Figure 4. Neochlamisus from the perspective of a short distance away

The beetles in the tribe Chlamasini were apparently not at the table the day decisions were made on what model they would mimic.  These guys at best mimic small bits of debris but are dead ringers for the frass of lepidopteran larvae (i.e., caterpillars).  Then as if to add insult to injury, we dubbed the tribe the warty leaf beetles!  The Chlamasini may humbly mimic excreta but what they lack in a flashy model they make up for with absolutely superb mimicry.  The Chlamasini are remarkably similar to the frass of lepidopteran larvae in size, shape, texture, and color but the aspect that really completes the mimicry is that, upon disturbance, the head is retracted and the legs and antennae are neatly folded into precisely matched grooves leaving no indication that this was once a beetle (Figs. 5 and 6).  Even the finer details of coloration were not overlooked as some warty leaf beetle species are variably colored, including an almost metallic sheen in some places that closely resembles the coloration of some caterpillar frass.  In fact the mimicry of warty leaf beetles is so convincing that I recently dropped a piece of suspect frass in a vial in hopes that it might sprout legs and represent a new species of warty leaf beetle for me.

Figure 5. Exema sp. with appendages extended

Figure 6. Exema sp. with appendages retracted

If the disturbance is sufficient to cause the beetle to completely retract these appendages, they will likely roll off the leaf and fall out of harms way.  Though these beetles can be relatively common, occurring even in my suburban St. Louis yard, the small size [Exema is only 2-3 mm (Figs. 7 and 8) while Neochlamisus is slightly larger at 3-4 mm] and resemblance to something unremarkable ensures that these beetles often times go unnoticed.  When I have happened to notice these beetles I found Neochlamisus associated with shingle oak, Quercus imbricaria, and Exema associated with Asteraceae, including gray-headed coneflower, Ratibida pinnata, and sweet coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa.

Figure 7. Exema sp. on sweet coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa

Figure 8. Exema sp. ready for flight

The Chlamasini are in the subfamily Cryptocephalinae within the leaf beetle family (Chrysomelidae).  The Chlamisini can be found worldwide but are most diverse in the Neotropics.   We have 6 genera in North America, two of which are shown here.  Interestingly, the excreta theme doesn’t stop at frass-mimicry.  Like other members of Crytocephalinae, warty leaf beetle larvae are “case-bearing”; that is they are housed in a case which in this instance is made out of… you guessed it, their own feces (Fig. 9).  You would think that most moms would frown on such a practices but mothers in the Cryptocephalinae actually instigate the practice when they equip each egg laid with a cap of feces that serves as starting material for the case and likely also serves to dissuade would be predators.

Figure 9. Chlamasini larva, likely that of Exema sp. on sweet coneflower, Rudbeckia subtomentosa

My experiences with Neoclamisus seven years ago captures perfectly why I am so drawn to explore for insects— there is always something new to find and every once in a while something comes out of the wood work that is beyond what I could have imagined.


Lourdes Chamorro-Lacayo, M. & A. Konstantinov. 2009. Synopsis of warty leaf beetle genera of the world (Coleoptera, Chrysomelidae, Cryptocephalinae, Chlamisini). ZooKeys 8:63–88.

Copyright © Chris Brown 2012

BitB’s Newest Contributor – Chris Brown

To regular readers of this blog, the name Chris Brown should be familiar. As a frequent companion on many of my field trips over the past decade, I’ve had numerous opportunities to mention his name in the posts that I’ve written about those trips. Chris, however, is not just a field companion—he is also an Entomologist (capital “E”) in his own right. Like me, he makes a living in the field of agricultural biotechnology, his particular focus being risk assessment of genetically modified crops. Also like me, he has a passionate avocational interest in insect biosystematics and conservation, and together we share our obsession with tiger beetles as co-investigators in the Missouri tiger beetle project. Unlike me, Chris also has fluent command of the avian fauna, giving him some additional ecological insights that I lack. In addition, whatever modest ability I’ve demonstrated as an insect macrophotographer over the past few years has been due in large part to the encouragement and advise of Chris, who was already an adept insect macrophotographer long before I became interested in adding a camera pack to my field outfit. Chris’ influence on me has already had an impact on BitB, and it is with great pleasure that I announce Chris will now have additional impact as its newest contributing author.

Photographing Cicindela pulchra in South Dakota.

I first met Chris when he came to my lab as a summer intern more than a decade ago (not long after I myself had taken my position here). It didn’t take long before Chris’ interest in joining me on my field exploits became apparent, and I was happy to have his company. During those early trips, I was immediately impressed not only by his skill as a photographer, but also his interest in understanding broader ecological context (too many young collectors want to know only the bug’s name and where they can find it). The Missouri tiger beetle project was in its earliest stages at that time—I thought his photographic capabilities would compliment my field experience in surveying for these insects and invited him to join me in the effort. In the years since, we have traveled together to all corners of Missouri, made two trips to the neighboring Great Plains, and explored the length of the Rio Grande River from Boca Chica to Big Bend. Chris’ travels, with me and separately, give him unique perspective and breadth of knowledge, and as much as he may claim to have learned from me during our joint travels, I have learned from him equally as much. Perhaps the most valuable lesson learned is to use photography as a means not to capture just images of insects, but moments in their natural history—features not easily appreciated when looking at preserved insect specimens in a cabinet. Please join me in welcoming Chris to BitB, and look for his first post to appear in the next day or so—I think you will find it a delightful read.

Chris surveys the loess hills landscape in northwestern Missouri

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes Tiger Beetle

Great Sand Dunes National Park | Saguache and Alamosa Counties, Colorado (click for 1680 x 887 version)

Last year’s Annual Fall Tiger Beetle Trip entered its last day as an unqualified success. Travel partner Jeff Huether and I were doing the “Great Western Sand Dune Tour” on a quest to find and photograph some of North America’s most geographically restricted tiger beetles. The first four days featured successful visits to northwestern Colorado’s Maybell Sand Dunes for Cicindela scutellaris yampae and Cicindela formosa gibsoni, southeastern Idaho’s St. Anthony Sand Dunes for Cicindela arenicola, and southwestern Utah’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes for the prize of the trip—Cicindela albissima. The only endemic that we had failed to find was Cicindela waynei at southwestern Idaho’s Bruneau Sand Dunes (hopefully this was a result of poor fall emergence conditions rather than an indication of further decline of this perilously endangered species).

Small sand dune west of GSDNP in the Nature Conservancy's Medano-Zapata Ranch.

Day 5 featured a visit to southwestern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes to look for the endemic Cicindela theatina. As on every day previous of the trip, the morning drive saw cool but rising temperatures under bright, sunny skies, so we were optimistic about our chances. Between Great Sand Dunes National Park (type locality of the beetle) and The Nature Conservancy’s Medano-Zapata Ranch west of the park, the entire 290 km² range of C. theatina is on protected land. Not knowing whether the beetle would be out and, if so, how extensively it would occur, our plan was to approach the Park from the west through Zapata Ranch and stop at any sand dunes we sighted along the way until we found the beetle.  It didn’t take long—as soon as we entered the Ranch we began to see small sand dunes in the distance, and within minutes after making the 1-km hike towards one particularly promising looking dune we saw the beetles. Even though this was the fifth western sand dune endemic I had seen in as many days, the first moment I laid eyes upon it was no less exciting—flashing red and green on coppery, white marked elytra, it seemed all hair and teeth!

Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle (Cicindela theatina) | Medano-Zapata Ranch

Despite this being my first sighting of the species, there was no doubt about it’s identity. The only other tiger beetle that occurs with and could possibly be mistaken for C. theatina is the blowout tiger beetle, C. lengi; however, the broad marginal band that runs completely around the elytra and the green/brown dorsal coloration of C. theatina are enough to distinguish it from that species. Temperatures were still a bit on the cool side, but the beetles were already remarkably active and skittish. Like the other sand dune species we had already seen, they were enormously difficult to approach—numerous failed attempts were necessary before I encountered the slightly more cooperative female shown in these photos (although she still required several minutes of stalking to get her sufficiently accustomed to my presence to allow these shots).

Like most sand dune tiger beetles, adults are densely hairy on the lateral and ventral surfaces.

Adults ''hug'' the sand for warmth during the cooler morning hours.

The dense covering of white hairs on the lateral and ventral surfaces of the adults belies their adaptation to the abrading sands of their wind-swept habitat. Scouring sands, however, are not the only hardships that the adults must contend with. Temperatures on the dunes can range from as low as 40° F on a chilly morning to nearly 140° F during the heat of the day. Accordingly, much of the adult beetle’s activities revolve around thermoregulation to maintain optimal body temperatures for activity (Pineda and Kondratieff 2003). These include not only stilting, shade-seeking, and mid-day burrowing to avoid excessive warming (see my post  for examples of these behaviors), but basking to gain warmth when temperatures are still a bit too cool for effective foraging (photo above).

Fabulous metallic red and green highlights on the head and pronotum contrast with the reddish brown elytra and their white lateral markings.

Despite the fact that the entire range of this species is encompassed by protected land, WildEarth Guardians filed a petition for federal listing as an endangered species in 2007 (Tweit 2010). Whether protection will be granted remains to be seen—Coral Pink’s C. albissima has a global range only 1.3% the size of C. theatina‘s range (only slightly more than half of which is on protected land), yet that species has been awaiting listing for nearly three decades now! (Too bad C. theatina doesn’t have real fur, feathers, or those endearing mammalian eyes that would surely allow it to jump to the front of the line.)

For the first time in BitB Challenge history, we have a 4-way tie for the win. Dorian Patkus, Mr. Phidippus, Mike Baker, and David Winter all share the honors for . Mr. Phidippus is the big winner, however, as he strengthens his grip on the overall lead with a lead of 13 or more points over his nearest rivals (Roy, Tim Eisele, Mike Baker, and Dennis Haines). The competition is far from over though—a single misstep is all it would take to see the emergence of a new leader before this session is over.


Pineda P. M. and B. C. Kondratieff. 2003. Natural history of the Colorado Great Sand Dunes tiger beetle, Cicindela theatina Rotger. Transactions of the American Entomological Society 129(3/4):333–360.

Tweit, S. J. 2010. Beetle Mania. National Parks 84(4):24–25.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012