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A Day in the Life of Raiden the White Tiger Beetle

Carolyn Wong Zareen Kamal

It's a sunny day at a beach in Indiana Dunes and Raiden the white tiger beetle wakes up from his sleep.

Getting hungry, Raiden decides to fly around the beach for some breakfast. Soon enough, he spots some tasty looking zebra mussels covered in flies next to a dead bird swarming with maggots and his his fellow beetles. Raiden swoops towards the mussels and tears into his meal.

Satisfied with his meal, Raiden looks around. It's a nice day at the beach, so he decides to spend some time there. As Raiden flies, a strong wind blows him towards drift, a pile of wood, on the beach. Tired of being pushed around by the wind and having the sun beat down on him, Raiden takes cover under the wood.

After the wind calms down, Raiden takes off once more to explore the beach. From a beetle's eye view, Raiden notices a can filled with water; he quickly dives in to cool off a bit. However, once he arrives the water is absorbed by the sand in about 18 seconds. At the same time, Raiden notices he is surrounded by just sand. There are no plants that could slow down the absorption of water by the sand.

Sand Reed

Marram Grass

Raiden gets bored and starts flying away from the beach and towards the dune builders, his home. Raiden spots marram grass and remembers that his mom told him it's a pioneer plant, which grabs hold of sand so that it won't shift and get blown away by the sand. Also, the roots create a net for catching the sand that's blown towards it. This creates the dunes.


Alongside the sand reed and marram grass, Raiden sees a few cottonwood trees. These trees are the first trees along the succession trail. The cottonwoods and grasses provide a little protection from the wind and sun. Raiden can fly easier compared to the exposure at the beach. Raiden spots another percolation can in the middle of the grasses. He sees that it takes longer to percolate. It occurs to Raiden that the roots of the grasses create more obstacles for the water to get past, thus the water is absorbed slower. Raiden continues flying.


Raiden runs into a lizard on the Lee Side and asks him why blue stem grows there. Lizard explains that little blue stem grows in less windy areas; however, it grows in thick clumps which hold the dunes in place. Raiden notices that lizard is licking his lips and staring at him intensely as lizard finishes explaining. Raiden then begins to back away slowly and takes flight.

Little Blue Stem

Flying as fast as he can away from the lizard, Raiden accidentally flies into little blue stem, which slings back and catapults him into a can a few feet away.Unable to move due to exhaustion, Raiden sits and waits for the water that was in the can to be absorbed by the soil.

About 52.4 seconds later, the water is gone. It occurs to Raiden that the percolation at lee side is longer than dune builders and the sand. Even though the sand has dead organic matter in it, the matter is big allowing the water to go quickly through it, whereas in lee side there are a lot of plants that become obstacles for the water. Also the dead organic matter in the soil holds the water, thus making it hard for the water to go through.

The dune ridge at the lee side provides Raiden protection from the wind that attacked him on the beach and at the dune builders, thus he has a relatively smooth flight. However, the dune ridge doesn't do much to protect him from the sun. Seeking some shade, Raiden continues off to the green blob, known as the Jack Pines, ahead of him. Jack Pines

Jack Pines


Raiden feels safe and cool in the Jack Pines because the jack pine trees and junipers on both sides protect him from any strong winds and sun exposure.

Seeing some mushrooms on the ground, Raiden is fascinated and flies towards the mushrooms to get a closer look. As he gets closer, he notices the same can with the water. This time, though, it takes 377 seconds for the water to be absorbed! At first, Raiden is puzzled by how long it took, but then he remembers his experience at lee side and it makes more sense now. Since there are a lot of plants around, the roots make it hard for water to go through and the dead organic matter holds the water, so water can’t get deeper into the soil.

Raiden flies ahead and sees an area filled with a whole bunch of sand. He sees the same pioneer plants he saw near the beach. Raiden realizes that this is the blowout his uncle was always telling him about. It was formed as wind carried sand from the dunes. His uncle also told him that primary succession begins in a lifeless area while secondary succession is in an existing community.

Feeling hot from the sun exposure, Raiden flies near a can of water. He's disappointed, though, when the water in the can is gone in only 23.7 seconds. Looking for some shade from the heat and wind, Raiden flies to a cooler area called the wooded dunes.

Oak Leaf

Sassafras Leaf Elm Leaf

Raiden kept flying until he found what he was looking for, another can with water. He liked this can a lot better because the water stayed for 261.24 seconds. Raiden thinks to himself that the looming trees provide a lot of shade; however, they also stop small plants from growing due to lack of light. Leaf litter is all over the ground. Also the wooded dunes is far enough from the lake to be protected from wind. So once Raiden is cooled off, he continues his journey.

Raiden flies to the bizarre land known as sandmine succession. He notices that everything seems out of place. There's junipers, marram grass, willows, and other bits and pieces of the places he'd just seen.

Bewildered, Raiden decides to ask the friendly looking hawk hanging out near the juniper. The hawk tells Raiden about the horrific story of how humans had mined there looking for sand. This disturbance caused the wrong things to grow together. The hawk also tells Raiden that in the days that his ancestors had flown by, these were wooded dunes, so if the humans hadn't caused a disturbance the sandmine would be wooded-dunes.

As the hawk explains, he gets closer and closer to Raiden. Instantly, Raiden knows something is up. He flies as fast as he can to safety, but the wind keeps blowing him off track. Raiden sees there are a bunch of cans around, so he decides to hide in one.

He chooses the can close to a juniper. To his surprise, there was water in the can. Thus, Raiden thinks it'd take about the same amount of time for the water to percolate as the time it takes for the hawk to fly somewhere else. Since the roots of the juniper make it harder for the water to flow through the soil, it takes 138 seconds. Raiden leaves the confines of the can.

The bit of relief after believing that the hawk had left quickly goes away as Raiden sees the hawk is only a couple feet away. Raiden jumps into another can, this time near the grasses. Again he thinks the hawk will be far enough away after the water in this can is percolated. Raiden notices that the water is percolating faster in this can because this time it's in grass rather than near a tree with lots of big roots that can be big obstacles for the water. It only takes 38.1 seconds. Raiden cautiously gets out of the can.

Raiden is blinded by the glaring sunlight, but once his eyes are adjusted he notices the hawk flying straight at him. Raiden blasts off towards the direction of an interdunal pond. His dad had told him that this was a kind of depression filled with water that was between dunes. It was formed by wind erosion.

The surrounding dunes blocked the wind, so Raiden could fly without have to worry about being thrown sideways and being grabbed by the hawk. Raiden is concentrating so hard on survival that he fails to notice the pond is drying up due to the summer heat and the sun.

The adventure of the day is getting to him. Raiden's wings are getting tired and beating slower and slower. The hawk closes in on Raiden. In one swooping gesture, the hawk grabs Raiden in his beak and swallows him.

A Day in t he Life of Raiden the White Tiger Beetle  
A Day in t he Life of Raiden the White Tiger Beetle  

The succession trail at the Indiana Dunes through the eyes of Raiden the White Tiger Beetle.