During last week’s 48-hour blitz through Florida, I spent one evening blacklighting at the famed “Road to Nowhere” tiger beetle hot spot and encountered this male individual of Ellipsoptera hamata lacerata¹ clinging to the grass near my light. A quick search of the surrounding area revealed a number of similarly perched individuals, including a mating pair and all representing the same species.
¹ Males (identified by the brushy pads under the foretarsi) of this species are distinguished from the closely related E. marginata, which co-occurs with E. hamata lacerata along the Gulf coast of Florida, by the lack of a distinct tooth on the underside of the right mandible.
Like many species in this and related tiger beetle genera, E. hamata is diurnal but also highly attracted to lights at night. This is thought to be related to nocturnal dispersion behaviors (Pearson and Vogler 2001) intended to avoid higher daytime predation risks. Nocturnal perching on foliage is also common among diurnally-active species in riparian habitats and seems also to be an adaptation for reducing predation. Pearson and Anderson (1985) noted that perched beetles removed from the grass and placed on the ground were often quickly preyed upon by larger nocturnally-active tiger beetles. At “Road to Nowhere” this might include the slightly larger Habroscelimorpha severa which occurred in enormous numbers alongside this species on the mud flats, or the much larger Tetracha virginica which occurred in fair numbers on the adjacent road.
Pearson, D. L. and J. J. Anderson. 1985. Perching heights and nocturnal communal roosts of some tiger beetles (Coleoptera: Cicindelidae) in southeastern Peru. Biotropica 17(2):126–129.
Pearson, D. L. and A. P. Vogler. 2001. Tiger Beetles: The Evolution, Ecology, and Diversity of the Cicindelids. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, N.Y., xiii + 333 pp.
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011