Beetles In The Bush

dune beetle

Have you ever come across a beetle so rare and beautiful that it leaves an indelible mark on your memory? That’s exactly what happened to me during my fall tiger beetle trip in 2011. As an avid enthusiast of these fascinating creatures, I had set my sights on a group of tiger beetles known as the C. maritima species group, which are endemic to sand dunes in Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.

The first target on my list was Cicindela arenicola, described from the St. Anthony Dune system in southeastern Idaho. Armed with information about several localities along the dune system, I ventured forth, fully aware of the challenges that lay ahead.

Walking onto the dunes near Idaho Falls, it didn’t take long for me to spot the unmistakable burrows created by adult tiger beetles. Distinguishing them from other arthropods was a skill I had honed over the years. With each meticulously excavated burrow, my anticipation grew. Empty burrows hinted at active beetles, and it wasn’t long before I chanced upon them.

Perched on the sloping, south-facing dune face were these magnificent creatures. Bold white markings adorned their exoskeletons, while highlights of screaming green and copper shimmered on their heads and pronotums. But what truly captured my attention was the dense covering of white hairs on their sides and undersurface. They were a sight to behold, but their activity level and wariness kept me from attempting any photographs just yet.

Having seen good numbers of C. arenicola, and with the discovery of other interesting insects in the vicinity, I decided to stay put. The sand dunes offered glimpses of Crossidius spp. in abundance on the blooms of snakeweed plants. As the sun began to set and temperatures cooled, fresh burrows started appearing on the dune surface. Adult beetles were now digging in, and it was my chance to capture them in photographs.

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With considerable effort, I managed to capture a near-perfect shot of an adult beetle. It was a truly accidental moment, as the beetle turned just as I pressed the shutter. The composition and focus were on point, even though it was entirely unintentional. This image became a testament to the beauty of Cicindela arenicola in its native habitat.

Cicindela arenicola is closely related to C. waynei, a species found in the sand dunes in and around Bruneau Dunes State Park, southwestern Idaho. Although their separation as distinct species is recent, C. waynei differs in coloration, expanded white markings, and a curious tooth on the male mandible. Interestingly, I encountered an individual at the southeastern Idaho site that exhibited intergradation of characters between the two species, making it a unique find.

These sand dunes hold vital importance for Cicindela arenicola. Sadly, they have faced numerous challenges, including invasive species, cattle trampling, and offroad vehicular traffic. The imperiled nature of their limited habitat has called for consideration of listing Cicindela arenicola as an endangered species. While the species remains largely unknown, being able to witness and study these remarkable beetles in their native environment is an experience that truly leaves an impact.


1. How rare is Cicindela arenicola?
Cicindela arenicola is considered globally imperiled and has been listed as such by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Bureau of Land Management. Its restricted habitat and environmental threats have led to concerns about its long-term survival.

2. Are there similar species to Cicindela arenicola?
Cicindela waynei is the closest relative to C. arenicola. While they share similarities, they can be differentiated based on coloration, markings, and certain mandibular characteristics.

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3. Why are sand dunes essential for these tiger beetles?
Sand dunes provide a unique habitat that certain tiger beetles rely on. Unfortunately, these habitats have come under various pressures, threatening the existence of these remarkable beetles.


Encountering the rare and captivating Cicindela arenicola in its native habitat was an unforgettable experience. The challenges faced by these sand dune dwellers serve as a reminder of the importance of conservation efforts. As a car news brand, we strive to bring you stories that ignite your passion for cars and the natural wonders they can lead us to. Join us on our journey to explore more captivating tales from the world of automobiles.

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