Miami Tiger Beetle Ecology

Miami Tiger Beetle Ecology

Miami Tiger Beetle Ecology

By Tiffany Moore, Butterfly Specialist at Zoo Miami

What do they look like? Where do they live?

The Miami tiger beetle has a body length of only 6.5-9mm long. Their body is a metallic green-blue with small punctured indentations on the wings, or elytra. They have very large eyes in proportion to the rest of their bodies and are highly visual predators. They can fly but are often seen darting along the ground quickly and usually only fly if disturbed.

The Miami tiger beetle lives in pine rockland habitats in Miami-Dade County. Adults prefer open sandy patches for oviposition and hunting. Today, their habitat has nearly been eliminated and there is less than 1.5% of the pine rockland’s original range remaining in Miami-Dade County. 


Decades went by without a trace of the Miami tiger beetle until 2007 when Jeff Slotten collected a beetle from the pine rocklands and discovered that this was the missing species last seen in 1939. The Miami tiger beetle survived in the underbrush and open patches of a fragment of pine rocklands. Its rediscovery prompted more questions about its future. 

Elevated Status

In 2014, a few naturalist organizations came together to file a petition to encourage elevating the status for the Miami tiger beetle. By 2016, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service declared the beetle was federally endangered. The official rule did not include a critical habitat designation until being proposed in September 2021. 

Why is it Important?

The Miami tiger beetle is one of the rarest and smallest tiger beetles in the U.S and it is endemic to the pine rocklands in Miami-Dade County. Habitat loss and urbanization has greatly decreased its original range in the county. Predatory beetles like these help keep a balance in the ecosystem by controlling smaller insect populations. 

Click on the video below to see how a Miami tiger beetle navigates its habitat and hunts ants.

A Penny For Your Burrow

The Miami tiger beetle has an adult emergence from May to September but their larval life history has little documentation. We conduct tiger beetle surveys throughout the pine rocklands and report our data to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as well as the Miami-Dade County preserve managers. We have observed that Miami tiger beetle larvae carefully dig out their burrows by tossing sand inches away from the burrow entrance. Imagine what it would be like to have a hurricane every afternoon during the summer rainy season. So, what happens when it rains and the sand fills the burrow? The Miami tiger beetle larva will excavate the sand again and again when it needs to. We use pennies to mark the burrows for further observation and to account for individuals. A Miami tiger beetle larval burrow will be about the same width as the “we” In God We Trust. The larvae blend into the ground so well that you would naturally think it was a rock but as soon as you cast a shadow over the entrance, you’ll notice a hole instead.

Watch this video of a Miami tiger beetle larvae cleaning out its burrow!


Posted by Frank Ridgley at 08:54