Nature – Sand Tigers

The beetles represent the largest Order of insects, with over 250,000 described species. Within this Order is a family known as the tiger beetles, containing about 2,000 species worldwide. Tiger beetles are closely related to the ground beetles but differ from them by having the head wider than the thorax. They also have large bulging eyes, long slender legs and antennae, and large sickle-like mandibles. Many tiger beetles are quite elegant in their appearance, having intricate patterns on their elytra (modified wing covers). Others are iridescent bronze, blue, purple, or green and rival butterflies for their beauty. Their iridescent colors are the result of structural pigments and a secretion that gives an effect similar to a film of oil on water. Tiger beetles are found worldwide except in Antarctica, Hawaii, the Maldives and Tasmania. They prefer sandy or well drained soils in open areas where they run around on bare ground in search of prey. Some species are nocturnal but most are diurnal, preferring sunny, hot, environments.

Like their namesake, tiger beetles are voracious predators, preying on other insects and invertebrates, which they run down and capture with their enormous mandibles. They are fluid feeders and use what is called pre-oral digestion where they secrete digestive juices onto their prey while it is held and crushed by the mandibles, which have a special molar-like tooth to aid in this mastication. As the digestive juices break down the crushed tissues of its prey, it sucks in the juices. Tiger beetle larvae are also predators and live in holes in the ground where they ambush passing prey by popping out of the hole like a Jack-in-the-box, grabbing the prey and dragging it down deep into the hole where it is eaten.

Tiger beetles, at only .5 to 1.5 inches in length, are the fastest land insects on earth. One Australian species of tiger beetle was clocked at 5.6 miles per hour. Many of the species can run about 5 miles per hour. It is estimated that if a tiger beetle were the size of a human, it would be able to run 200–300 miles per hour. For their size, they are technically the fastest running land animals. Tiger beetles have large compound eyes, which give them a wide area of view for locating the movement of their prey. As the tiger beetles pursue their prey, they often stop to get their bearings and then proceed with the chase. This stop-and-go pursuit is necessary, as the tiger beetle’s vision shuts down after it accelerates toward prey. Moving too fast causes the beetles to not gather enough photons (illumination into their eyes) to form an image of their prey. So, the high speeds cause the tiger beetles to go blind, temporarily.

Unlike the tiger beetles that lose sight of their goal, we Christians are to fix our eyes on Christ and proceed forward without hesitation. “Will not our church members keep their eyes fixed on a crucified and risen Saviour, in whom their hopes of eternal life are centered? This is our message, our argument, our doctrine, our warning to the impenitent, our encouragement for the sorrowing, the hope for every believer. If we can awaken an interest in men’s minds that will cause them to fix their eyes on Christ, we may step aside, and ask them only to continue to fix their eyes upon the Lamb of God. … He whose eyes are fixed on Jesus will leave all. He will die to selfishness. He will believe in all the Word of God, which is so gloriously and wonderfully exalted in Christ.” Maranatha, 99.

David Arbour writes from his home in De Queen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: