Puritan tiger beetle (Cicindela puritana)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderColeoptera
FamilyCicindelidae
GenusCicindela (1)
SizeAverage male length: 11.5 mm (2)
Average female length: 12.4 mm (2)

The Puritan tiger beetle is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Like other tiger beetles (Cicindela species), the Puritan tiger beetle (Cicindela puritana) is named for its tiger-like hunting behaviour (3) (4), chasing down its invertebrate prey on its long legs and capturing it in its large mandibles (3) (4) (5). A medium-sized terrestrial beetle, the Puritan tiger beetle is bronze-brown to bronze-green in colour, with narrow white bands on the wing cases (2) (3) (4) (5).

The larva of the Puritan tiger beetle is grub-like, with a white, segmented abdomen and a wide, shovel-shaped head (3) (5). The head is metallic black and bears a pair of antennae (3).

The Puritan tiger beetle often occurs alongside and closely resembles the more common bronzed tiger beetle (Cicindela repanda), but can be distinguished by its longer, thinner body and by white wings markings that are continuous rather than broken along the outer edges (3) (5). The Puritan tiger beetle also has white hairs on the underside of the body, whereas the bronzed tiger beetle appears metallic blue-green underneath (5).

This species is found in north-eastern North America, where it historically occurred along the Connecticut River in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and along the Chesapeake Bay shoreline in Maryland (2) (3) (4).

However, by 2005 the Puritan tiger beetle’s range had been reduced to Chesapeake Bay and two sites along the Connecticut River, in Massachusetts and Connecticut (2) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8).

The Puritan tiger beetle inhabits sandy beaches around large bodies of fresh or brackish water (9) (10).

Like most tiger beetles, the Puritan tiger beetle has specific habitat requirements (2) (8), but these requirements appear to differ slightly between the Connecticut River and Chesapeake Bay populations (2) (7). Along the Connecticut River, the larvae of the Puritan tiger beetle burrow in sparsely vegetated sandy beaches in bends of the river, whereas along Chesapeake Bay, the larvae use long, high, sandy, non-vegetated banks and cliffs (2) (7) (8).

The adult Puritan tiger beetle is a fast runner and strong flier (9). Usually active during the day (3) (4), it actively pursues its invertebrate prey (5). Like other tiger beetles, it is a voracious hunter that is likely to be one of the dominant invertebrate predators in its habitat (2).

Although the colour and markings of the adult Puritan tiger beetle make it difficult to spot when not moving (5), it may be predated by dragonflies, robber flies (Asilidae species) and jumping spiders (Salticidae species) (2) (5).

The Puritan tiger beetle spends 23 months of its 2-year life cycle as a larva (5) (10). The larvae of this species create burrows where they lie in wait for passing invertebrate prey (4) (5) (10), firmly positioned at the mouth of the burrow by means of hooks on the abdomen (2) (4) (5). The burrows are closed for hibernation during the winter, as well as during the summer, probably to avoid parasitism by flies and wasps (5). In some locations, the burrows may be subject to flooding (2) (5).

The larvae of the Puritan tiger beetle pass through three developmental stages before pupation occurs around June of the second year (5), with the adults emerging several weeks later (3).

Mating in the adult Puritan tiger beetles begins in mid-July and continues until mid-August, when, their life cycles complete, the adults begin to die off. The female Puritan tiger beetle lays eggs individually just below the surface of the sand, and the eggs hatch after about a week, usually in late August or early September (3) (5) (10).

Populations of the Puritan tiger beetle have declined severely over the last century (9). The populations of this species are limited by the availability of sandy beach habitat (5) (10), with suitable sites being lost to urbanisation, flooding behind dams, and bank and cliff stabilisation (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (10).

The habitat of the Puritan tiger beetle is also threatened in some areas by heavy recreational use (3) (4) (5) and by plant succession (2) (7), while the adult beetles may be negatively affected by pesticides from nearby agricultural areas (3).

Due to their long larval period and specific habitat requirements, the larvae of the Puritan tiger beetle are particularly susceptible to any natural or man-made changes to beaches and cliffs (2) (7).

Since 1990, the Puritan tiger beetle has been listed as ‘threatened’ under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (4), and this species is also listed as ‘endangered’ in the states of Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts (2) (3). These listings prohibit collection or harassment of the Puritan tiger beetle and set a framework for its conservation (2).

In 1993, a recovery plan for the Puritan tiger beetle was developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the objective of which was to restore the beetle to a “secure status within its historical range” and achieve delisting. This was to be accomplished via methods including the protection of its habitat, public education, population monitoring and reintroductions (2). The Puritan tiger beetle appears to move relatively little between habitat patches, so reintroductions may play a key role in establishing new populations and so reducing its risk of extinction (9).

Since the Puritan tiger beetle was listed, the more intensely managed Connecticut River populations have increased in size. However, further declines have occurred at Chesapeake Bay (6).

Find out more about the Puritan tiger beetle and its conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region (1993) Puritan Tiger Beetle (Cicindela puritana G. Horn): Recovery Plan. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Region, Hadley, Massachusetts. Available at:
    http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/EndSppWeb/BEETLE/PDFs/1993RecoveryPlan.pdf
  3. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife: Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program - Puritan tiger beetle (June, 2011)
    http://www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/nhesp/species_info/nhfacts/cicindela_puritana.pdf
  4. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1990) Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; determination of threatened status for the Puritan tiger beetle and the northeastern beach tiger beetle. Federal Register, 55(152): 32088-32094. Available at:
    http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/federal_register/fr1738.pdf
  5. Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection - Puritan tiger beetle (April, 2011)
    http://www.ct.gov/dep/cwp/view.asp?A=2723&Q=326064
  6. Suckling, K. (2006) Puritan tiger beetle. In: Measuring the Success of the Endangered Species Act: Recovering Trends in the Northeastern United States. Center for Biological Diversity, Tuscon, Arizona. Available at:
    http://www.esasuccess.org/reports/northeast/
  7. Pyzikiewicz , A.J. (2005) Species profile: Puritan tiger beetle Cicindela puritana. In: New Hampshire Wildlife Action Plan. New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, Concord, New Hampshire. Available at:
    http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/Wildlife_Plan/WAP_species_PDFs/Invertibrates/Puritan%20Tiger%20Beetle.pdf
  8. Vogler, A.P. and Desalle, R. (1994) Diagnosing units of conservation management. Conservation Biology, 8(2): 354-363.
  9. Omland, K.S. (2002) Larval habitat and reintroduction site selection for Cicindela puritana in Connecticut. Northeastern Naturalist, 9(4): 433-450.
  10. Days in the Country Environmental Education Foundation - Puritan tiger beetle (June, 2011)
    http://www.ditc-eef.org/pdfs/puritan_tiger_beetle.pdf