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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

At the Edge of the Sea: Salt Marsh Tiger Beetle

Posted by | August 5, 2019 | Filed under: Observations

Maine is home to 14 species of tiger beetle, one of which is a salt-marsh specialist. Cicindela marginata is a “species of special concern” in Maine and “possibly extirpated” in New Hampshire. It is vulnerable to tidal erosion, sea level rise, development, and coastal oil spills.

Yves Bousquet [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsCicindela marginata Fabricius - ZooKeys-245-001-g012" src="]

Salt Marsh Tiger Beetle. Photo: Yves Bousquet [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons.

In 2010, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife found the salt marsh tiger beetle in Wells and just nine other sites during a survey of the state’s salt marshes. Because the species’ situation remains precarious, Sue Bickford asked Dr. Robert Nelson (“Beetle Bob”) to determine the status of the local population this summer.

Dr. Nelson surveyed the sand flats and marsh surface behind the Little River barrier dunes on June 26 and July 26 and discovered a salt marsh tiger beetle population “large enough to be considered stable and secure.”

Similar Species

A casual observer walking along the dune at the river mouth is likely to encounter a different tiger beetle that Beetle Bob found abundant on his visits. The hairy-necked tiger beetle (Cicindela hirticollis) is a half-inch-long, speedy, start-and-stop hunter of smaller insects whose larvae burrow into sand. It is threatened in other parts of its range but apparently secure in Maine.

Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle on Laudholm Beach, July 19, 2019. Photo: Scott Richardson.

Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle on Laudholm Beach, July 19, 2019.

Adapted from Watermark 36(1): Summer 2019

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