Courtesy: Daily Hampshire Gazette

Environment: The fight is on to save the last of the puritan tiger beetles


A Tiger Beetle found on Rainbow Beach.STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLI
Staff Writer
Published: 7/16/2019 3:49:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Shoeless and armed with binoculars, Chris Davis and Neil Kapitulik look serious scanning every inch of Rainbow Beach on a recent morning.

They aren’t looking for lost treasures, as they maneuver around people lounging in chairs and kids playing in the sand on the strip of land owned by the city of Northampton on the Connecticut River.

Davis and Kapitulik, contractors for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, were surveying the beach for puritan tiger beetles, an endangered species that lives in only a handful of places in the world, one of which is Rainbow Beach. Scientists have recently planted more there in an effort to boost their numbers.

The beetles, about the size of a thumbnail, can only be found in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and in two areas along the Connecticut River — Rainbow Beach and in Cromwell, Connecticut. Researchers keep the specific locations of the Cromwell sites a secret because they worry that if publicized, serious bug collectors will deplete the population. Collectors already know the insects exist on Rainbow Beach. Historically, the bugs could be found in many places along the Connecticut River, from Vermont and New Hampshire down to Connecticut, but now they live in just these two locations.

Why Rainbow Beach?

“This is it,” Rodger Gwiazdowski, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said earlier while sitting on a boat with Davis and Kapitulik zooming on the river toward the beach, which is accessible to the public by boat. “The problem is, there’s no habitat left,” Gwiazdowski said.

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