Puritan Tiger Beetles, ‘Vicious Predators,’ May Soon Hunt Again

The beetles are New England’s most endangered species. Now scientists have begun an unlikely effort to return them to the banks of the Connecticut River.

HADDAM, Conn. — In row upon row, 436 tiny larvae are presumably fast asleep now, a few months after they were tucked inches deep into trenches dug along the sandy banks of the Connecticut River.

The nestled larvae represent the last chance for one of New England’s most endangered species, the Puritan tiger beetle — an insect tiny enough to fit on the pad of a thumb. The species only exists in small numbers in just two spots here, and another in the Chesapeake Bay area.

“This is it for New England,” said Laura Saucier, a wildlife biologist for the state of Connecticut. “If we lose our population in Connecticut, it’s gone. The stakes are pretty high.”

Granted, the Puritan tiger beetle project — one of the largest insect reintroductions in the country — lacks the emotional appeal of protecting pandas or polar bears. “It’s not fuzzy and has a face only a mother could love, but they’re just so interesting,” Dr. Saucier said. “They’re the top predators in this food web and the food web is down here,” she said, pointing to the sand, “so we don’t know a lot about them.”

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