Shockingly for a relatively large, metallic green, white-spotted monster, the Ohlone Tiger Beetle was discovered only 20 years ago. Tiger beetles have always been popular with collectors, underscoring just how rare this species is. Just five small populations are known, all within about 10 miles of the city of Santa Cruz.
Like all tiger beetles, adults and larvae are voracious predators. Adults are active during the day, able to run or take flight quickly to chase prey or escape their own predators. Larvae live in burrows in the soil, grabbing other insects unfortunate enough to walk overhead.
The species requires relatively open grassland habitat on low elevation coastal terraces. Sound like a nice place for a house? Residential development is one of the most serious threats to this species' existence. When the species was first proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act, three of the five areas occupied by the species were slated for new home construction.
In listing the species, the Fish and Wildlife Service also cited invasive plants as a key threat to the Ohlone Tiger Beetle. In coastal grasslands, as well as many other types of habitats in California, non-native plants have taken a heavy toll on native biodiversity. It was wise to recommend its careful monitoring.
Because the Ohlone Tiger Beetle was listed so recently, it is difficult to cite substantial improvements in its status already. However, there is little question that by calling careful attention to the use and management of coastal grasslands in the region the Ohlone Tiger Beetle has been given a new lease on life.