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Mating Festive Tiger Beetles (Cicindela scutellaris) | by Thomas Shahan
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Mating Festive Tiger Beetles (Cicindela scutellaris)

Spring is in full swing and lately I’ve been enjoying the sun around the Canadian River here in Oklahoma stalking the tiger beetles that buzz about in the sand. I first noticed these beautiful beetles last October in the same spot where I found that Phidippus mystaceus male, but didn’t have the time to get any photographs of them.


Without a doubt, these beetles have been some of the most difficult subjects I’ve ever photographed as they rarely let you get anywhere near them. If you move an inch towards them, they’ll fly an inch away.


For the shot above, I laid flat on my belly about 10 feet from the beetles, and very slowly over the period of a minute or two inched my way like a snake towards them. Once I had the pair in focus (the focusing distance with my 200mm lens on a set of extension tubes was about 2-3 feet) I just fired away. To get the low angle, I had to dig my chin down into the sand by wiggling my jaw about. Not long after I started photographing them, I heard the rumble of an ATV and the screeches of the teenage couple driving it approaching behind me. Begrudgingly I got up, wiping the sand out of my beard, and let them pass. As they roared by, the beetles disjoined and flew away.


This shot isn't up to my usual standards of quality, but given the difficulty involved with shooting tiger beetles, I'm pleased with it for now. It's a significant crop from a pretty low quality lens (an old Japanese "ASANUMA" 200mm f/3.5 prime on a set of extension tubes) and was taken in direct sunlight without flash.




If you are interested in the amazing variety of tiger beetles present in the U.S. - take a look through the photos on bugguide here:

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Taken on April 10, 2010