A small creature took to the air from near my feet. It flew a short distance close to the ground and landed further down the trail that I was walking along. As I approached it, it quickly took off again and landed further down the path. This ‘catch-me-if-you-can’ game happened a few times over.
I was curious to know what this creature was. I tread very carefully and inched closer. This little insect on long legs was very wary of my presence. It would run in a zigzag manner for a short distance and would stop as if to check if I was following it. For a while, it kept moving away and keeping a distance from me. However, after considerable effort, I eventually managed to get close enough to photograph it.
Slowly, I lay flat on the ground with my camera. Through my lens, the insect did look very smart indeed. I managed to quickly get a few pictures and was very happy at the achievement, more so because this little fellow was so active. I waited until it moved away from me, to get back up on my feet. I knew it was a beetle because it had a pair of hardened wings. But its large eyes, powerful mandibles, and the long legs were a giveaway – it was a Tiger Beetle indeed!
There are over 2500 species of Tiger Beetles in the world, with about 220 species known from India. Most Tiger Beetles are less than an inch long. Many are also very brightly coloured, and some even have metallic hues.
Tiger Beetles are predatory by nature and get their name because they are known to ambush their prey. Though most species are active during the day, some are nocturnal too. I have, on occasion, seen some species getting attracted to light in the night; this behaviour is perhaps to make a meal of other insects that also get attracted to the light.
The pretty Tiger Beetles are but just one small group of the very large order of beetles. Incidentally, beetles account for nearly a fourth of all species on Earth!