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.

Seek and you shall not find

Miami tiger beetle larvae spend their entire time inside a burrow until they eclose as an adult. The width of their burrow is the same width as the head capsule of the larvae. As the larvae grows, they will renovate their home and expand it. Miami tiger beetle larvae eat mostly ants that cross into the areas around their burrow. Using the hooks on the dorsal side of the larvae, they will reach out and grab unknowing ants with their mandibles and their hooks hold onto the wall of their burrow to keep them from being pulled out. In this photo, there is a Miami tiger beetle larvae but we bet that you won’t be able to find it. Here are two hints: The penny is for scale and the yellow-orange sand was excavated during the making of the burrow.
Posted by Frank Ridgley at 09:13