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Have you seen a brilliant jewel-like beetle skipping ahead on the path in front of you?

Then you have seen one of my favourite insects in Hong Kong, the Tiger Beetle, or Spy-bug. The one below here is cosmodela aurulenta juxtata.

These beetles are quite common here in Hong Kong, and it is interesting to note that many of these beetles are active in the heat of the day; particularly in hot weather, and after rain.

They are brilliantly coloured, have giant prominent compound eyes, and fierce looking mandibles (mouthparts) that are large pincers. Their antennae emerge just above the base of the mandibles. The legs are long and skinny, with pale white hairs on the abdomen and legs.

Tiger beetles hunt their prey where they alternatively sprint quickly toward their prey, then stop and visually reorient. They can travel up to 2 metres per second – equal to about 300km/hr on our scale - so it is thought that while running, the beetle is moving too fast for its visual system to accurately process images.

Tiger beetles are pure predators, and are equipped with some serious weaponry. They have enormous jaws for their size, which are used for grabbing, impaling, crushing and cutting their prey.

As you can see in the picture, their mandibles are like long curved swords with daggers sticking out of them. When captured prey is dismembered as it is consumed. As if this doesn’t sound gruesome enough, tiger beetles ‘spit’ digestive juices onto their prey as they are chewing it to start the digestive process before they suck up the liquid mush. yum yum.... (still more "humane" than keeping battery chickens, I reckon).

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