Rare beetle numbers bouncing back in secret locations on Grand Lake

Cobblestone tiger beetles have been considered endangered in Canada since their discovery in 2003, but this summer a zoologist is seeing an increase in the numbers of sites where the beetles are being found.

Locations of cobblestone tiger beetles kept quiet to protect the insect from 'very zealous collectors'

The cobblestone tiger beetle is found only along the shores of Grand Lake and islands in the St. John River in Canada. (Jim Bell)

Cobblestone tiger beetles have been considered endangered in Canada since their discovery in 2003, but this summer a zoologist is seeing an increase in their presence along the shores of Grand Lake. 

In Canada, the beetle is thought to be found only in New Brunswick, on the banks of Grand Lake and on islands in the St. John River.

John Klymko, zoologist with the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, started a survey of the beetles in mid-July and he's already finding surprising numbers.

"When we started on the lake this year we knew of five locations, and we've tripled that number." 

John Klymko, a zoologist at Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, and his team found 15 sites containing colonies of cobblestone tiger beetles on Grand Lake, up from a previously known five. (CBC)

He attributes the increased number of site finds to more effort put into looking.

"It's probably populations that have been there for quite some time."

Klymko's project was funded by the federal government's habitat stewardship program. The focus of the study is to find sites or colonies.

But the locations he's finding with the help of summer student Miranda Weigensberg are being kept quiet. 

"We don't advertise site locations," Klymko said.

"There's a small number of very zealous insect collectors that can travel great distances to collect the species so we try to protect … the precise location."

Klymko said finding more tiger beetle sites doesn't mean the population is thriving, but the new data he is collecting can be used when the beetle is reassessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, under the Species at Risk Act, happening this fall. 

"The species on Grand Lake is threatened by shoreline development, heavy beach traffic by vehicles," he said. 

"New sites found along the shoreline are an excellent opportunity to take steps to protect those intact beach habitats where there's also a lot of plants species that are rare in the Maritimes."

He said cottagers who own property near colonies will be contacted in hopes of working with the Nature Trust of New Brunswick to conserve habitat.

Even with the discovery of an additional 10 sites containing cobblestone tiger beetles, Klymko said the species remains a concern. Shoreline development and heavy beach traffic are both threats. (Jim Bell)

Klympo spends his days slowly walking the beach, looking for movement among the cobblestones.

"They are very active in the day time, so hot sunny days like this are perfect."

"You'll see them scurrying along the ground."

Klymko said the Grand Lake shoreline is unique for its extensive, wide, cobble beach.

"From a Maritime perspective and perhaps a national perspective it's a bit of a national treasure."