Heath Tiger Beetle

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Heath Tiger Beetle Project was successfully completed at the end of 2012. Heath Tiger Beetles are currently only found in Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset.

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 Beefly (Thyridanthrax fenestratus), Hornet Robber-fly (Asilus crabroniformis), Heath Grasper Spider (Haplodrassus dalmatensis), the ground beetles Heath Short-spur (Anisodactylus emorivagus) 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.

Fascinating Facts:

  • Heath Tiger Beetles are currently only found in Surrey, Hampshire and Dorset.
  • As their 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 jaws mean that Heath Tiger Beetles are fast running, predators capable of quickly capturing, killing and masticating their unfortunate prey.