Heath tiger beetle (Cicindela sylvatica)
|Size||Length: 15-19 mm (2)|
Classified as Nationally Scarce in Great Britain (3).
Cicindela sylvatica is the largest tiger beetle (2). It is bluish-black in colour, with a bronze sheen, and a metallic blue underside (2). The patterns on the wing cases ('elytra') are characteristic of the species (2), and the black upper lip (labrum) with its clear central ridge distinguishes it from all other tiger beetles (4).
Since 1970, this beetle has been recorded only from Sussex, Surrey, Dorset and Hampshire. Historically it was widespread in the heaths of southern England, from Dorset to Kent, and at one isolated site in Lincolnshire (3). Outside of Britain, it occurs throughout Europe, with the exception of the Mediterranean and the extreme north (3).
As the common name suggests, this species is found in heaths on dry, open and sandy soils (3), usually in open coniferous woodland (5).
All tiger beetles are sun-loving, agile, and typically predacious beetles (2). Adult heath tiger beetles have been recorded from March to July (5); they are active in bright sunshine, running around rapidly whilst hunting for prey, and take to the wing readily (3). The larvae live in burrows in the sand, and wait at the burrow entrance for prey to pass by (2). The life-cycle takes a year to be completed, with adults breeding in spring and summer (3). Both the adults and larvae prey upon invertebrates that are active on the surface of the soil, particularly ants and caterpillars (3).
Main threats facing this beetle are the loss and fragmentation of heathlands, and unsuitable heathland management, particularly neglect, which results in a loss of open areas and the growth of scrub (3).
The heath tiger beetle is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and has been included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. A Species Action Plan has been published; this plan aims to maintain all known populations, and enhance them by the year 2010. A further aim is the creation of five new populations in parts of the historic range of this species, also before 2010 (3).
For more on English Nature's Species Recovery Programme see:
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- Elytra: in beetles and earwigs, the hard fore wings. They are held aloft when the insect flies, and are often coloured or patterned.
- Labrum: in insects- the upper lip.
- Larvae: stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
- National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2002) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nbn/
- Lindroth, C. H. (1974) Handbooks for the identification of British insects. Volume IV. Part 2: Coleoptera, Carabidae. The Royal Entomological Society of London, London.
- UK BAP (September 2002) http://www.ukbap.org.uk
- Harde, K. W. (2000) A field guide in colour to beetles. Silverdale Books, Leicester.
- Hymen, P. S. and Parsons, M.S. (1992) A review of the scarce and threatened Coleoptera of Great Britain: Part 1. JNCC, Peterborough.