Heath Tiger Beetle
Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Heath Tiger Beetle Project was successfully completed at the end of 2012. The project was developed to create suitable habitat for the nationally scarce and UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UKBAP) priority species the Heath Tiger Beetle Cicindela sylvatica.
During the winter months of 2009 to 2011 SWT staff, volunteers and contractors worked in partnership with heathland managers across the western heaths of Surrey and parts of west Sussex to create areas of bare ground using an industrial turf stripper purchased by the project. Heather turves were stripped back to reveal bare sand, providing the ideal habitat for female Heath Tiger Beetles to lay their eggs. The cut turves were used to create south facing sand banks for a wealth of other warmth-loving heathland invertebrates. Volunteers and contractors also cleared Pine and Birch scrub from open heathland to pave the way for further turf stripping work during winter 2010/11.
Preliminary survey and monitoring at selected sites showed signs of success, with Heath Tiger Beetles using recently created habitat patches. A wealth of other invertebrates were also observed using the patches, such as ants, spider-hunting wasps, mining bees, digger wasps and a variety of spiders. Notably these included several UKBAP priority species; Mottled Bee-fly Thyridanthrax fenestratus, Hornet Robber-fly Asilus crabroniformis, Heath Grasper Spider Haplodrassus dalmatensis, the ground beetles Heath Short-spur Anisodactylus nemorivagus and Early Sunshiner Amara famellica.
Heath Tiger Beetles require a dry heathland mosaic of bare sand, short heather and patches of taller heather and scrub for food and shelter. The earlier scrapes we created during 2009/10 are beginning to regenerate with young heathers and other heathland plants, the perfect habitat for many early-successional heathland species.
Outside of the SITA Trust funded work for Heath Tiger Beetles SWT Invertebrate Ecologist Scotty Dodd undertook valuable ecological research at Thursley Common, studying the comparative dispersal abilities, phenology, spatial distribution and habitat preferences of the Heath Tiger Beetle and the commoner Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris during a three month mark recapture release (MRR) research experiment. This work was partly funded by the Surrey Heathland Project. We hope to make this research freely available via the website, as a downloadable PDF file, in due course.
Scotty is also currently researching the historic distribution and ecology of the Heath Tiger Beetle in the UK on behalf of Hymettus and DEFRA. A link to this research will also be uploaded in a few months – so watch this space.
Please tell us about your observations. Have you seen a Heath Tiger Beetle whilst out walking on a heathland site? If you think you have then please let us know or email a picture to Scotty Dodd email@example.com.
Surrey Wildlife Trust Would like to thank SITA Trust for funding this project and all partner organisations for their support, especially the Surrey Heathland Project team.
Please find a link below to the Heath Tiger Beetle Project Report at Thursley and Sheets Heath during 2012.
HTB REPORT 2012
Did you know…
• Heath Tiger Beetles are currently only found in Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset. The Sussex populations became extinct during the 1980’s.
• As the common name suggests the beetle is only found on heathland – this has to be dry heathland with plenty of early-successional habitat for the beetle to survive.
• There are 5 species of Tiger Beetle known from the UK. Only 2 of these species occur in Surrey. The heath Tiger and the commoner Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris.
• Heath Tiger Beetles are ferocious predators, both as larvae and adults. They regularly feast on ants, caterpillars and other invertebrates.
• The long legs, large eyes and formidable scimitar-like jaws mean that Heath Tiger Beetles are fast-running, diurnal predators capable of quickly capturing, killing and masticating their unfortunate prey.
• The fascinating subterranean larvae are physically adapted to living in deep, cylindrical burrows where they act as a living trap-door to capture invertebrates running on the surface.
• Tiger Beetles are not without their enemies. The ant-like females of the solitary wasp Methocha articulata (ichneumonoides) are known to creep into the underground burrows of Tiger Beetles and parasitise the larvae.