Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
MonomoyNational Wildlife Refuge's Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle Population Continues to Expand
Northeast Region, September 19, 2008
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Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle
Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle - Photo Credit: n/a
Neil catching a beetle
Neil catching a beetle - Photo Credit: n/a
Neil gets to work
Neil gets to work - Photo Credit: n/a
Painting a specific color code on a beetle
Painting a specific color code on a beetle - Photo Credit: n/a
This side will get the color red
This side will get the color red - Photo Credit: n/a


The federally threatened Northeastern beach tiger beetle once occurred in great swarms on beaches along the Atlantic coast.  However, only two populations of these beetles currently exist north of the Chesapeake Bay; on Martha's Vineyard and Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Monomoy NWR was targeted as an introduction site for the federally threatened Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetle in 2000.

The first larval transplant occurred in May 2000, with 23 tiger beetle larvae moved from Martha's Vineyard to the refuge.  Adult beetles generally emerge from their sandy burrows in July and August.   Five adult tiger beetles emerged and were found on the refuge in 2000.  Reintroduction continued to occur from 2001-2003 with 34, 33, and 23 larvae respectively.  In 2001, approximately 23 adults were found.  In 2002, 27 adults were found and 19 adults were found in 2003. 

From 2004 - 2008, tiger beetle larvae were not transferred to Monomoy due to logistical challenges and an inability to locate a sufficient number of larvae on the source beaches at Martha's Vineyard.  However, adult beetle monitoring was conducted in these years.  A total of 27 emerged adult beetles were sighted and marked in 2004 and 16 adults in 2005.  In 2006, 66 adult beetles were marked and in 2007, 19 adult beetles were marked.  The lower number for 2007 is indicative of typical tiger beetle "off-years", the year when the cohort is traditionally smaller. Another factor might have been the less intensive survey effort that was confounded by the connection of South Beach and South Monomoy creating an unanticipated expanded survey area.  

During the 2008 season the New England Field Office contracted biologist Neil Kapitulik to survey the movements and population of South Monomoy Island's tiger beetle population.  It was a record year for the refuge population with 179 marked tiger beetles (84 females).  Neil also was able to resight and map individual beetles which will prove to be important for understanding tiger beetle movement and habitat preferences, and the development of a tiger beetle conservation strategy.

"These numbers are extremely encouraging, as larvae have not been transferred to Monomoy since 2003.  Northeastern Beach Tiger Beetles found in 2008 indicate survival and successful production of beetles through all stages of life", says Biological Technician Kate Iaquinto.

The dynamics of the barrier islands make conservation and management challenging but the beetles seem to thrive in the chaos.  "A large population of these tiger beetles is very important considering the high energy habitat niche that they occupy.  The larval habitat of beach grass and dunes are vulnerable to winter time erosion and blowouts, which could wipe out a beetle population.  The high number of adults will hopefully lead to dispersal and reduce the risk of eradication and increase the chances for the species survival", says Biologist Neil Kapitulik.

"The establishment of a self-sustaining population of Northeastern beach tiger beetles, originating from the relatively small number of transplanted individuals is a significant step towards the recovery of this species. It remains to be seen if there are other opportunities to establish populations in New England, but in the interim, we are extremely encouraged by the Monomoy introduction effort" said USFWS Endangered Species Biologist Susi von Oettingen.

Contact Info: Michael Brady, 907-246-1201, michael_brady@fws.gov
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