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Miranda Hodgson

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Chafer beetle on the lawn - tread on it or let it go?

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 16 Jul 2012 at 03:06 PM

Arriving at a garden the other morning, I just missed treading on a chafer grub beetle, otherwise known as a May bug or Melolontha melolontha. This one was sitting very still in the middle of a lawn, which was not a good place. I wondered if had been there since the previous night as these beetles are active at night, resting on trees during the day.

Not wanting to tread on it, and thinking it would be better off in sunshine (yes, there was actually sunshine that day!), we encouraged it to crawl onto a leaf and deposited it on the wooden edge of a cold frame. After sitting in the sun for a couple of minutes, it suddenly woke up and crawled away quite quickly.

There have been few chafer beetles seen around this year, no doubt because of all the rain we’ve had this year. In other years, they can be seen flying at night during the months of May and June. Attracted by the outside lights of houses, they often annoy people by flying in through open windows and buzzing around their heads. That hasn’t happened this year, but maybe it’s partly because it’s been raining much of the time and we haven’t had the windows open as much.

The grubs of chafer beetles, chafer grubs, are familiar to farmers and to those with lawns, as they eat the roots of plants and can cause damage to grass pastures and crops. The grubs are easy to recognise, being up to 4cm long, with white bodies, brown heads and grey ‘tails’. They live as grubs for three years and cause damage during this time.


It sounds like a nightmare, but they are part of the food chain and provide food for large-beaked birds such as rooks and crows. The adult beetles are taken by owls and bats. Seeing a pest like a chafer beetle, maybe I should have just trodden on it, but it’s part of the food chain and would make a crunchy snack for something. Hopefully that’s what happened and it didn’t crawl off to lay eggs.


Roundelder said:

As long as you put a signpost for the birds "Roll up, free grub" Okay, I know, so it was a full sized beetle really.

on 17 Jul 2012 at 08:17 AM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Yes, a full sized beetle, but it would make a tasty snack for an owl or bat!

on 18 Jul 2012 at 01:52 PM