Specieswatch: the green tiger beetle, a ferocious heathland predator

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The wanted poster at the edge of the restored heathland made the green tiger beetle Cicindela campestris seem quite menacing, like an outlaw on the run. Perhaps if you are an ant, spider or caterpillar living in the same habitat this might well be your view. The beetle is described as a ferocious predator. To catch its lunch it has sharp teeth set in large sickle shaped jaws, and being one of Britain’s fastest insects is able to run up to five miles an hour.

Having never seen one before, it was a disappointment after such a billing to find they are at the larval stage at this time of year living in burrows, waiting at the entrance hole to ambush their unsuspecting prey. In fact, this top predator is only 10 to 15mm long, roughly half an inch.

But when they emerge as adults in the spring they will be a bright metallic green with purple bronze legs and large creamy spots on the wing cases so fairly easy to see. They hang about on bare patches of earth to warm up in the sun – the heat helps them run faster. To escape they take off with a loud buzzing sound. Best let them go; they bite.

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