The Northern Dune Tiger Beetle (Cicindela hybrida) lives predominantly on warm, immature sandy soils. It is comparatively hard to observe for it is very shy and usually has a flight distance of about two to three meters.

As a predatory ground beetle the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle generally moves by running on the ground. Its long legs enable it to move very quickly. After short distances it pauses again and again in order to descry potential prey animals. Its strong ivory-like mandibles already reveal that it is a predator and catches and dismembers prey with them.

It hunts everything it is able to overbear, but mainly ants. They are grabbed, quickly killed and afterwards divided by means of the strong mandibles. It eats nearly everything, even the chitin carapaces of the prey animals.

The dry, warm and sandy immature soils are not only a feeding habitat, but also a breeding habitat for the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle. After copulating the female digs a channel, which is a few centimetres deep, into the soil. At the end of the channel it digs a small breeding chamber. Here it lays the eggs.

After eclosing the young beetle larvae creep up to the ground surface at night and look for a suitable place to dig their interceptor channel.

Like shown on the photo you can almost never watch the larvae, and if you manage to do so then only at night.

They have a worm-like, curved, stiff-bristled body on whose backside there are two humps provided with dagger-like thorns. The stunted legs are hardly appropriate to move on the ground surface.

At the front end of its worm-like body there is a head capsule. Quite a distance apart from each other, there are two small strong mandibles on each side of the head capsule. By means of them the larva grasps in the sand over and over again and moves it out of the way to the front. Thus a hole emerges.

When the recently dug hole has reached a depth of nearly half to the whole of the larva's body length, it changes its strategy of digging. It scrapes off the sand at the bottom of the hole by means of its mandibles, forms a little ball of it, turns around in the hole, places the sand ball on its head capsule and pushes it upwards towards the exit. As the head capsule is connected laterally and not centrally with the body, the larva is able to hurl away the ball by bouncing up its head capsule - similar to the functionality of a catapult. This procedure is repeated again and again until the hole has a depth of half a metre.

After the interceptor channel is completed - that takes about one night - the larva appears at the channel entrance. It closes the entrance with its head capsule, whose diameter exactly complies with the channel’s diameter. The sand balls lying around the entrance consisting of the sand from the inner channel crumble away at the next rain and conform to the surrounding earth so that a smooth, homogeneous surface is generated. Thus the channel entrance can hardly be recognized from all sides by other insects running around.

Now the larva is lurking in this position until a prey animal - generally also ants - approaches. If for example an ant is close enough, the head capsule bounces up again, the mandibles grasp the completely stunned ant and pull it into the channel in a flash. There, the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle larva straightens out its arched body so that it vertically falls into the depth like an elevator in its shaft. As soon as the ant trapped in the mandibles of the predator realizes what's going on and begins to struggle, the larva curves its body into an S-shape driving its dagger-like back thorns into the side walls of the narrow channel like a dowel. Now there is no longer an escape  - the prey is commited to the firmly anchored larva. The larva injects the ant with poison by means of its mandibles. Thus the ant becomes weaker and weaker; it finally dies and its inner body liquefies. Then the larva literally drinks up the ant leaving nothing else but the chitin carapace which is again shifted upwards and hurled away by the head capsule.

Everything the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle larva feeds upon is used. As there are not any excretions, it does not have an anus either. This makes sense insofar as only rarely prey animals come by the channel in this relatively inanimate habitat. It is possible that the larva will be laying in wait for food without avail for many days and weeks. If it has eventually captured a prey animal, any excretions left after digestion would be a waste. This represents an excellent adaption to the extreme conditions of sandy habitats. Depending on the number of prey animals eaten, the development of the larva lasts two to four or even more years.

As already mentioned above, the adult beetles are also predators who feed mainly upon ants. In the hot summer months the sandy soil heats so excessively at full solar irradiation that at midday, at the highest solar altitude, most insects have to retreat in the cool shadow in order to avoid heat damages caused by sudden flocculations of the protein compounds in their bodies. Due to their wraparound chitin carapace, only the ants are provided with a better protection enabling them to run around a little longer more often than not.

However, the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle is able to react to this situation. When the surface of the sandy soil gets really hot at midday, the beetle stands on tiptoe holding an air pocket underneath its body with its long stretched legs. Because its own body shades this air pocket at the same time, the latter's temperature drops by up to five degrees Celsius as against the ambient temperature. The beetle's body surface is well protected against the great midday heat by means of its chitinous elytrons and the subjacent wings. Its abdominal side, however, is relatively unprotected; it is the beetle's most sensitive body part. Due to the air cooling in the air pocket, the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle is able to hunt ants "five degrees Celsius" longer. Thus it has a competitive advantage over other predatory insects forced to leave the hunting ground earlier in order to take cover from the great heat - a fascinating adaption to an extreme habitat!

You will certainly think that the picture on the right-hand side shows an ant. You are mistaken. This animal is a female Northern Dune Tiger Beetle digger wasp (Methocha ichneumonides), a great enemy of the Norhern Dune Tiger Beetle, or more precisely, the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle larva.

Contrary to the male, the female Methocha ichneumonides is wingless and looks remarkably like an ant. It is running around looking for prey until it comes across a Northern Dune Tiger Beetle larva lurking in its channel. The digger wasp probably finds its prey olfactorily, that is by means of its sense of smell. However, this has not yet been conclusively documented. Now it is slowly approaching the larva and that in a deceptive manner, as if it has not yet spotted the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle larva. Then it lets itself be trapped as an alleged ant. The beetle larva "catapults" towards it by farly bouncing up its head capsule, grabs it with its mandibles and intends to pull it into the deceptor channel. However, as Methocha ichneumonides is slightly slimmer as an ant, the beetle larva cannot keep hold of it due to its wide-set mandibles. It is the same effect as if a pipe wrench tries to take hold of a pipe that is too thin. The digger wasp slides a little downwards through the closed mandibles, curves its abdomen and pushes its abdominal sting very quickly into the throat below the still raised head capsule of the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle. It injects the larva with an instantly acting poison that narcotizes and incapacitates it. Now the digger wasp pulls the numbed larva in its interceptor channel, places its own egg on it and closes the channel with sand. After a few days, the wasp larva hatches from the egg. It feeds upon the larva of the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle. After passing all the larval stages, the wasp larva pupates. In the very same year, the mature digger wasp ecloses. After hibernation, it digs itself out of the Northern Dune Tiger Beetle's interceptor channel in the next year. The life cycle starts over again.