Non-Birding with Mike

Australian Tiger Beetle

By Mike Pope
Over the summer I was exploring Sulaibikhat Bay in the searing July heat checking for breeding Kentish Plovers when I came across a really strange insect that I had never seen before.
 
It literally just appeared ahead of me while I was walking on the baking hot low tide zone and I managed to get one photo of it before it disappeared as quickly as it had arrived.
 
I thought it may be a kind of wasp species and posted it on my Blog and appealed for assistance of its identification, but had no luck with any responses or opinions.
 
 
Last week, I was reading BBC News on the net when a picture caught my eye – it was the very same insect I had seen 5-months ago! The title for the accompanying story was also intriguing which was “The fastest insect in the World.”
 
Obviously I was interested to find out more and discovered that this was an Australian Tiger Beetle (or perhaps one of the sub-species). For those interested, you can read the full story here -http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20141021-the-fastest-insect-in-the-world
 
More research followed and I found out that Tiger Beetles are found throughout the World and in USA alone there are more than a hundred species. They live and are found along sea and lake shores, on sand dunes and around dry lakebeds – but in general they have a preference for bare sandy surfaces.
 
So when next on the beaches or low tide zones in Kuwait, keep an eye open for these amazing speed-demon predators. They aren’t huge, but they stand out with their beautiful colouration, huge eyes, incredible jaws and of course their speed.
 
This Beetle got its name from how it hunts like a Tiger. It uses its large eyes to find and stalk its prey (most invertebrates are fair game), once the prey is spotted, the Tiger Beetle runs it down, pounces on it and tears it to pieces with its big sword-like mandibles. Be warned, if you try and catch one with your hand it will draw blood!
 
If you are an insect being chased by a Tiger Beetle, you better hope you can hide or fly away during that very brief period, because you will never outrun this speed king of insects. No other beetle or insect on the ground can move as fast as this Tiger Beetle and you aren’t going to outrun those ferocious jaws of death.
 
So how fast is this fastest insect in the World?
This amazing insect runs 1.86 m/s (4.16 mph) or an incredible 171 bl/s!
To convert this Tiger Beetle’s astonishing relative speed into human terms: a Usain Bolt-sized tiger beetle moving at 171 body lengths per second (bl/s) would be moving at about 1097 feet per second or approximately 748 mph!
 
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