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Carolina Tiger Beetle (Megacephala carolina)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Carolina Tiger Beetle

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Image Credit: Dawn D. from Houston, TX
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Large jaws, metallic coloring and stark white legs make the Carolina Tiger Beetle a real standout and a popular addition to collector showcases.

Updated: 01/03/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Carolina Tiger Beetles are bright and colorful, which makes they highly sought after by insect collectors. They are collected from the wild and killed for display, a practice also implemented with butterflies. The metallic, emerald green body is gem-like and the top part of the dorsal (back) side has a reddish-copper gleam. A large white dot at the end of the body marks the bottom edge of each elytron. In addition to all that visual interest, this beetle also sports bright white antennae, legs, and mouth parts. Altogether, it is rare to see such color combinations in nature, and that attracts many beetle and bug collectors. This collecting by humans, coupled with habitat destruction, has led to a decrease in Carolina Tiger Beetle numbers and dispersion.

The Carolina Tiger Beetle is a ferocious predator of many pest insects, so having healthy populations is beneficial. As adults, these predatory beetles consume many insects that humans consider a nuisance: spittlebugs, flies, caterpillars, spiders and ants. This particular species may be considered a natural turf-protector. A study showed it consumes insects that are known to kill the short grass seen on pitches, football fields, and golf courses.The hunting style of this beetle accounts for its 'tiger' moniker. Larvae are worm-like creatures and they reside in vertical tunnels, latching onto the side of the burrow with a hook-like feature on their body. They wait, with their mighty jaws at the surface of the hole. When an unaware insect walks over it, the larva quickly clamps its jaws on the insect, drags it down into the hole, and eats it. To be successful at hiding and hunting, larvae need undisturbed soil or sand. Human foot traffic, ATVs, bikes and other off-road vehicles destroy both the burrow and the insect living in it.©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
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Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Coleoptera
        Family: Cicindelidae
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          Genus: Megacephala
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            Species: carolina

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Megacephala carolina
Category: Beetle
Size (Adult; Length): 5mm to 10mm (0.19" to 0.39")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: green; white; ivory; black
Descriptors: flying; shiny; metallic; emerald; mouth; jaws; bulging; eyes; spot; white legs; purple; orange; antennae

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 5mm (0.2in) and 10mm (0.4in)
Lo: 5mm
Md: 7.5mm
Hi: 10mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Carolina Tiger Beetle may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Carolina Tiger Beetle. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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