The Third of Florida’s Three Metallic Tiger Beetles

Tetracha virginica (Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle) | Levy Co., Florida

After three straight posts not about tiger beetles, I’m hoping readers will forgive my return to this fascinating group. The photos in this post represent Tetracha virginica (Virginia Metallic Tiger Beetle), the most widely distributed (at least in the U.S.) of the four species occurring in North America north of Mexico. Even though this species occurs in my home state of Missouri, I’d not found an opportunity to photograph it until August last year at Florida’s “Road to Nowhere“—famous among U.S. cicindelophiles as one of the country’s true tiger beetle “hot spots.” In fact, it was on the very same night at this same place that I photographed the related Tetracha carolina (Carolina Metallic Tiger Beetle) (featured in Not all Florida tiger beetles are rare) and just one day after I photographed the endemic Tetracha floridana (Florida Metallic Tiger Beetle) (featured in Why I Roamed the Marsh at Night). That’s all three species of Tetracha occurring in Florida in just two days (and if I want to photograph the fourth and only remaining U.S. species, Tetracha impressus (Upland Metallic Tiger Beetle), I’ll have to go to Brownsville, Texas and get very lucky!).

The solid green elytra without apical markings distinguish this species from all other Tetracha spp. in the U.S.

Truthfully, I had no plans to post these photos after I took them. Like the other species they were photographed at night, and when I got a better look at the photos on the computer I was disappointed to see the subject was badly covered with large particles of sand. I don’t mind a little bit of debris on insects—it is, after all, a normal part of their appearance. However, too much debris is, for me, an aesthetics killer! “Wait a minute… these don’t look too bad”, you say? Well, thanks to the Clone Stamp Tool in Photoshop Elements, and as a followup to my recent post on this subject, I now have enough confidence to tackle not only small pieces of debris, but also more difficult “debris cases” such as this one with relatively large particles. Here is the same photo as shown above and processed in exactly the same manner, except that no cloning was used to remove the debris:

Aren’t I a dirty boy?!

Obviously, there are limits to what the Clone Stamp Tool can do, and I didn’t try to deal with the sand particles clinging to more difficult to clone body parts such as legs and antennae (although I’m sure that in the right hands even these could be cloned out). Nevertheless, even just cleaning the dorsal surface of the beetle does much to improve its appearance with a relatively minor amount of effort.

And, of course, what would a tiger beetle post be if it did not end with my signature face portrait (notwithstanding a few large sand grains that I wasn’t sure I could clone out effectively)?

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2012

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About Ted C. MacRae

Ted C. MacRae is a research entomologist by vocation and beetle taxonomist by avocation. Areas of expertise in the latter include worldwide jewel beetles (Buprestidae) and North American longhorned beetles (Cerambycidae). More recent work has focused on North American tiger beetles (Cicindelidae) and their distribution, ecology, and conservation.
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6 Responses to The Third of Florida’s Three Metallic Tiger Beetles

  1. I don’t get too anal about the dust in ‘in the field’ photographs, a tend to save the heavy cleanup for the white studio shots, or anything out of the natural habitat or for art prints. Would you try to clean-up pollen grains, for instance?

    • Pollen is different—for pollen-feeding insects it’s an integral part of the insect’s natural history. See for example Pollen Bath.

      Debris, however, really does nothing to improve the natural history story of a photo. I don’t worry about it to the extent that it’s not distracting, but in this case it all but ruined the photos (IMO).

  2. Patrick Coin says:

    Nice photos. I find these guys occasionally on summer nights in my suburban Durham NC neighborhood while walking my dogs. The little terrier, in particular, is good at finding beetles on the road. The T. virginica I’ve found are always hyperkinetic, and I’d never get a photo without capturing them. (But of course, they are found on asphalt, so maybe that makes them extra-eager to run.)

    • This and the other species of Tetracha are all frenetic regardless of the situation. All of them I’ve photographed I’ve had to “work” for quite a while before I got them settled down enough to photograph. I think this one actually got dirty from me working it, as I spent probably about ten minutes blocking it as it tried to run off the road into the thick grass.

  3. M. Barton says:

    Love these, especially the face shot–and I’m very impressed with your debris cleanup.

  4. Jason hayse says:

    I have loved watching and studying insects my whole life it just.intetest me I dont even need pay I could do.for free I just enjoy studying and learning about them I caught Speci Tetracha virginica in my backyard in arkansas I have caught and studyied black widows, cow ants, cicada killers etc many many more this is just what comes from backyard if I could get out and spend more time icould b really really good at this

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