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Bugs Going Bump in the Night

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Cockchafers are also frequently called Maybugs because of the month they appear.  At 30mm long they're one of our largest beetles.  They fly at night and if you leave your curtains open with the light on you may hear one bump into your window as it heads for the light.

They're not renowned for their flying skills.  Cockchafers have all the aerobatic grace of a brick.  They take off and fly in roughly the direction they want to go, but if something gets in the way they usually fly straight into it.  It's all a bit uncontrolled, and makes you wonder if they'd be better off just walking.

Landing amongst vegetation is just as hazardous.  They have tiny little hooks on the ends of their legs, which if they're lucky, will latch onto some foliage.  If not they just plummet to the ground.

It comes as no surprise that the main part of the cockchafers life is spent underground as a wingless larva.  Cockchafers live for around three years, and the first two years are spent as a grub feeding up on roots - and avoiding being eaten themselves.

After two years they've grown to about 5cm in length and are ready to pupate in the soil.  During this stage their bodies transform, and the adult beetles emerge in October.  Since they need to feed on leaves, they remain underground until the following spring.  Around mid-May they put on their 'L' plates and take their first experimental journey into the air.

Despite their harmless nature, and vegetarian diet, there's never any shortage of people who feel threatened by these native insects.  Every spring I receive a pile of e-mails about these "monster bugs" terrorising the neighbourhood.  Here's a few I've received recently.  Some are reasonable questions, while others make you realise that our own species is a lost cause...


Q.  My garden is full of huge beetles with sharp, stingers on their tails. When I turn my conservatory light on at night they try to smash their way in through the glass. I've captured one in a plastic bag. Would you like me to send it to you?

A.  Please don't send it.  Just let it go.  They aren't capable of stinging, and are unlikely to smash through your windows.


Q.   Will they invade my home like cockroaches?

A.  The adult beetles usually feed on oak leaves, so unless you live in a tree house they won't invade your home.


Q.  My pets have been catching and chewing these beetles to bits. Will they harm my pets?

A.  Only if they choke on them.


Q.   I've found cockchafers in my garden.  Will they destroy my fruit trees, and if so, what can I use to get rid of them.

A.  At worst they'll nibble a the edges of a few leaves and the beetles will be gone in a few weeks.


Q.  My mate down the pub says if they get tangled in your hair you have to burn them out.  Is that right?

A.  No.  You should probably reduce your alcohol intake and broaden your circle of friends.

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