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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide
Northeastern beach tiger beetle
Cicindela d. dorsalis
Species Group: Invertebrate
Northeastern beach tiger beetles can be identified by their bronze-green head and thorax. It has white to light tan forewings (elytra), often with dark lines. These beetles range from 1/2 to 3/5” in length.
Distribution and Habitat
Once abundant along coastal beaches from Martha’s Vineyard to New Jersey, the Northeastern beach tiger beetle has been extirpated from Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York. Only two natural populations of this beetle can be found north of the Chesapeake Bay, both in Massachusetts. Only one very small population exists in New Jersey, inside Gateway National Recreation Area. This small population only exists because of the ongoing efforts involving the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to translocate beetles.
Although there are no definable indicators of northeastern beach tiger beetle habitat, this species is found on long, wide, and relatively undisturbed sandy beaches of the Atlantic Coast and Chesapeake Bay (Hill and Knisley 1994).
Northeastern beach tiger beetles scavenge most of their meals. Their diet mostly includes marine invertebrates, crabs, and fish. They are very successful predators that utilize sickle-like mandibles to capture small amphipods, flies, and other beach arthropods such as spiders (USFWS 1994).
Northeastern beach tiger beetles mate and lay eggs from late June through August. Females are thought to lay eggs at night in shallow burrows in the mid to high tide zone on coastal beaches. Beetle larvae emerge in late July and August and live in vertical burrows in sand where they wait for unsuspecting prey to pass by and capture. The larvae remain active into November, and then they hibernate during winter. Tiger beetle larvae emerge the following June as adults, but sometimes it may take up to two years for the larvae to fully develop.
Current Threats, Status, and Conservation
Throughout its range, the beach tiger beetle is most susceptible to human activities on coastal beaches. During the two year larval stage, the larvae live in the shallow burrows. It is critical to the development of the larvae for there to be minimal beach disturbance. Recreational beach use, coastal development, and the high volume of tourists in New Jersey have ultimately devastated native populations of beach tiger beetles.
Federally listed as threatened in 1990 and state endangered in 1991, the Northeastern beach tiger beetle is protected by both federal and state Endangered Species Acts. In addition, habitat protection is afforded through the Coastal Areas Facilities Review Act (CAFRA) and other coastal regulations. This beetle is currently considered to be critically imperiled in New Jersey, simply because of its rarity. Since 1994, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has supported studies to help re-establish populations of the Northeastern beach tiger beetle in the Northeast. Experiments have been conducted at the Gateway National Recreation Area, Sandy Hook. During these studies, tiger beetle larvae from the Chesapeake Bay area were translocated to several beach sites and routinely monitored. Results from the experiments showed that the translocation techniques could be used to help establish a population of northeastern beach tiger beetles at Sandy Hook (Knisley and Hill 1997). A program to reintroduce the species at Gateway National Recreation Area has been underway since 1997 (Knisley and Hill 1998).
In 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a 5 year status review of the beetle. The review concluded that their status should be upgraded to endangered due to the declining population trends throughout their range.
Hill, J.M. and C.B. Knisley. 1994. Current and Historic Status of the Tiger Beetles Cicindela d. dorsalis and Cicindela d. media in N.J., with Site Evaluations and Procedures for Repatriation. Report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pleasantville, N.J.
Knisley, C.B. and J.M. Hill. 1997. Experimental Methods for the Translocation of the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle, Cicindela d. dorsalis, to Sandy Hook, N.J. -1995-1996 Study. Report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pleasantville, N.J.
Knisley, C.B. and J.M. Hill. 1998. Translocation of the Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle, Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis, to Sandy Hook, N.J. – 1997. Report to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pleasantville, N.J.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1994. Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle (Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis Say) Recovery Plan. Hadley, Mass.
Text derived from the book, Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of New Jersey. 2003. Originally written by Jeanette Bowers-Altman. Originally edited by B.E. Beans & L. Niles. Edited and updated in 2010 by Ben Wurst.
Species: C. doralis
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