When I first encountered this beetle south of Fargo last weekend I thought it might be a scarab given its bright metallic exoskeleton. Upon watching it and observing its stance and behavior, however, it became clear this was one of the tiger beetles. But which one?
Thankfully a friend of mine has spent years studying tiger beetles. Naturally I turned to him for the identification. Wham! He instantly pegged it as a six-spotted tiger beetle. InÂ Pat’s ownÂ words…
“This little beauty is a six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata). Itâ€™s a widespread species, but this is about as far northwest as it occurs. Ours have the spots on the elytra greatly reduced and sometimes even absent. Iâ€™ll have to head down there and collect a few â€“ I donâ€™t have any from Cass Co., though I do have them from Clay in MN, Richland, Sargent and Ransom in ND, and Roberts in SD. Ours like riparian/moist woods habitat with dark soil.”
All well and good. But it left me wondering what an “elytra” was. It’s been nearly 30 years since my entomology class so the word escaped me. Dictionary.com told me it’s a plural form of elytron, which means: “one of the pair of hardened forewings of certain insects, as beetles, forming a protective covering for the posterior or flight wings.” In other words, it’s the part that makes upÂ the bulkÂ of the visual part of a beetle as we see them.
Just another reminder there is more out there in the wildÂ than we lay folk can imagine. Not that insect viewing will ever rise to the level of bird watching for me, but when the birding is slow, there are options.