Northern dune tiger beetle (Cicindela hybrida)

SizeBody length: 15 mm

Classified as Vulnerable in the UK.

This very handsome beetle is predominantly dark red all over its body, but there is a slight greenish sheen, as well as incomplete stripes of yellowish white across the wing cases. The underside is metallic green in colour. The family of tiger beetles can be recognised by their long curved mandibles, their large eyes and their long legs.

This insect is found throughout most of Europe except the north, but in the UK, its range is confined to coastal sites in Lancashire and Cumbria. There are records from North Wales and East Anglia, but the latter have been presumed to be those of a closely related species, C. maritima. The northern dune tiger beetle and C. maritima were once considered to be the same species.

In the UK, this species is found on sand dunes and open, sunny sites near the coast but away from the water. In Europe, it is found on non-coastal sites as well.

Tiger beetles are hunters and can see their prey quite easily with their large eyes. They are only able to hunt when the surface temperature of the ground reaches 28°C. This is about the same temperature at which their prey begins to move, and tiger beetles are able to pursue their victims easily with their long legs. One suggestion is that, unusually for insects, some tiger beetles have binocular vision; their field of view overlaps forward of the insect, allowing it to judge distances and speeds. This would give them a big advantage over their victims.

The beetles breed in mid-summer and the larvae may spend the winter in a half-grown state. Adults emerge in the mid-summer and over-winter before breeding which suggests a total life span of two years. The larvae are predatory, like the adult beetle, and the species is able to fly well.

As well as various projects to stabilise sand dune systems, the increasing use of dunes for recreation also poses a threat to the northern dune tiger beetle.

The northern dune tiger beetle is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) and included in English Nature's Species Recovery Programme. In Lancashire all known sites are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Formby/Ainsdale Dunes are a National Nature Reserve (NNR), Drigg/Eskmeal Dunes are Local Nature Reserves LNRs, and Eskmeals and Altcar Ranges are owned by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). Ainsdale is a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC). There are a number of other sites in the Lancashire and Cheshire region that, historically, listed these beetles, and it is hoped that re-introductions may be made to these sites providing their habitat was suitable by 2010. Other plans for this species include linking the Action Plan with that for coastal sand dunes and raising awareness through increased publicity.

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