For today's wildlife feature in my photography advent calendar series, I will focus on the amazing beast that is the Green Tiger Beetle (Cincindela campestris). This feisty Coleoptera is a common ground beetle around various habitats in the UK, from heath and wasteland to coastal cliff edges and dry areas of soily ground. You can often encounter them on warm, sunny days in the spring and summertime, if you watch your feet carefully for when one skitters away or flies up abruptly when flushed. They are amongst a large family of over 40, 000 species of ground beetles Worldwide, of which around 350 inhabit the UK.
These stunning beetles are not fussy eaters: they'll tackle anything from spiders and ants to caterpillars and other more sedentary prey items. Sporting an impressive pair of jaws (mandibles), they can break up their prey after pursuit at high speed on long, agile legs. The large eyes also help in spotting prey and evading predators and parasites such as Parasitic Wasps... and as any photographer who has tried to photograph these knows, their skittish nature does not help on the photography side of things! Another rather cool feature of this species is to do with the early stages of development: the larvae sport an impressive pair of mandibles too, which they use to consume prey items that fall into their burrows (essentially like a pitfall trap!).
So when you are next out for a walk in a sunny coastal spot or on a heathland, look out for these stunning predators- they are well worth a look!