June Beetle

2007 December 8

We get these big honking beetles flying around for a brief period in the late spring/early summer.  For us, that means early-to-mid June, so people here call them “June Beetles” or “June Bugs”.  Further south, they are “May Beetles”.   Last June, this one evidently smacked into the window in our back door overnight and stunned itself[4], which would be why I found it laying on the ground there in the morning.

phyllophagabeetledorsal.jpg

This is in the genus Phyllophaga. Since even the folks at Bug Guide don’t seem to feel comfortable specifying the species on the dozens of pictures that they have[1], I guess I’ll just leave it at the genus level, too.  There are apparently 207 species known in North America, and I guess they all look about the same.

From the back, you can see some yellow fuzz protruding between the thorax and abdomen. Flipping it over, we can see a lot of yellow fuzz, covering the whole midsection like a fur vest.

phyllophagabeetleunderside.jpg

The abdomen is pretty much naked, and there is something odd in the center of the abdomen: it looks like it is transparent right there, and we are looking at the insides -

phyllophagabeetleundersideabdomen.jpg

As for what, exactly, we are seeing there, I don’t know. Internal organs? Eggs? Parasite grubs? Or are we not actually looking inside at all, and it’s just an illusion because of the way light is reflecting? Maybe next spring I’ll have to catch another one and check on this further.

Moving to the head end, the mouth looks, well, odd.

phyllophagabeetleundersideantennafolded.jpg

It looks not so much like a mouth, as a hole. The rear half of the “hole” looks like it might be some particularly unimpressive-looking mandibles, but it sure doesn’t look like it is very effective for eating. Of course, the adults of the species that live around here are only out for a couple of weeks in the spring. For all I know they may only live a few days, and may eat very little or not at all.

Another thing you can see, if you look just behind the eyes, are a couple of orange-brown projections. These are the tips of the antennae, which are kind of wrapped around the eyes and tucked into sockets under the head when not in use. After I’d taken the first set of pictures and put away the macro lens, it more or less “woke up” and extended the antennae, so I took another picture (unfortunately not at as high of magnification as the others) where you can see the way they spread out the “fingers” on the antenna tips to increase sensitivity:

phyllophagabeetleundersideantennaout.jpg

Aside from scaring the bejesus out of you when they smack into windows with a sound like a thrown rock (or buzz past your head as they orbit around yard lights at night), the adults in this area don’t seem to cause any particular damage to anything [2]. The grubs, on the other hand, are of a bit more concern. They are known as “white grubs”, the big, white “C”-shaped grubs with dark grey tails that are frequently found while digging in the garden. They eat roots, particularly in the spring, and can cause a lot of damage to many different kinds of plants. Depending on the species, they may spend anywhere from 1 to 4 years as grubs, coming near the surface to feed in the spring and summer, and then burrowing down below the frost line to overwinter. They generally pupate in the fall, and the beetles overwinter the last year as adults before they dig to the surface to breed in the spring. A good way to control them is to plow in the late spring or early fall, while the grubs are near the surface. This exposes them to birds and other predators[3].


[1] Evidently, you need to extract the genitalia in order to tell the different species apart. But, the ones in this area all look about the same, act about the same, and their grubs cause the same sort of plant damage. So, for most day-to-day purposes it doesn’t really matter what exact species it is, and the genus is good enough.

[2] And, since they are large, slow-moving, pretty durable, and harmless, they are great fun for small children to play with. Our daughter likes them a great deal.

[3] When I was a kid, I used to watch the neighbors plowing their fields, with these huge flocks of hundreds of seagulls following them around. The gulls were mostly eating worms and beetle grubs that the plow turned up.

[4] Actually, thinking about it a bit more, I’m not sure who found this particular specimen.  S_ also found one in the spring, and our daughter did as well. I’m pretty sure this isn’t the one that our daughter found, because she, well, kind of played that one to death (she liked the “crinkle” noise it made when she squeezed it . . .), but I might have photographed the one that S_ found, not the one that I found. This just goes to show why it is important to take notes at the time, rather than depending entirely on memory (and the timestamp on the picture). Maybe someday I’ll learn that.

12 Responses leave one →
  1. December 9, 2007

    “she liked the “crinkle” noise it made when she squeezed it . . .”

    Tim, I’m very interested in what your daughter is going to be when she grows up. Seems she’s getting experiences that most kids don’t – from insectile education to having “toys” that are completely opposite from the Fisher Price variety.

    I’m speaking as a suburb-dweller, however, so what do I know? But it’s still pretty fascinating.

    Also, thanks for exposing the visual of the June Bug – we hear them all the time downstate in the summer, but I’ve never seen any until your June Bug picture. One thing you didn’t mention – how does a June Bug make that noise? It’s such an excessively loud whining; pretty impressive for a little bug.

  2. December 9, 2007

    Yes, I think that sometimes the best toys are the things that crawl into your house under their own power. I’ve got a short video of her playing with a woodlouse, too.

    As for the noise: as far as I know, June Beetles don’t make noise other than “crack!” when they hit a window, or the clattering whirr as they fly past your head. The ones that make the loud whining are Cicadas, like this one. They are, if anything, even bigger than June Beetles. I talk a bit about their sound-generating apparatus in that entry.

  3. Meagan permalink
    May 30, 2009

    Hey i found a beetle(i think)and it doesnt look like the beetles on any websites ive look at..it looks like a cross between a cockroach/earwig and beetle!can someone help me identify it?

    it has-
    6legs
    has short white and black hair under its head
    has two antenas
    has a triangular tail more like cone
    can fly
    likes heat
    and a browny goldeny colour

    found in ireland

  4. June 1, 2009

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any really good ideas either. Maybe it’s some type of rove beetle?

  5. adrian permalink
    June 24, 2009

    how do june bugs make their home?
    what do they eat?
    what colors do they come in?

  6. Judy permalink
    October 19, 2009

    Why am I seeing junebugs in the autumn, in northern California?
    Thank you.

  7. October 19, 2009

    Judy: Bug Guide says that there are about 500 species of these beetles in North America, and their data page shows that people have submitted pictures from California taken as late as August. There is no reason to think that the records for California shown on that page are complete, and in Texas they are shown as being out as late as November. I guess you just have at least one species that comes out that late.

    We don’t have any of those late species in Michigan, we only see them in May and June.

  8. Judy permalink
    October 19, 2009

    Tim,
    I didn’t take pictures, but I saw a couple over the last couple of nights (October 17 and 18). I live in inland Mendocino County, 120 miles north of San Francisco. I guess their whole life cycle must be on a different time track than their springtime cousins, which occur here, but not in the huge numbers that I saw when I lived in Michigan. Thank you for your reply.
    Judy

  9. Anthony permalink
    January 22, 2010

    hi i found what looks to be june bug larvae in some pine timber i bought for firewood it was split into blocks and two of the blocks i extracted two of these larvae is it common to find these in Ireland?

  10. August 23, 2011

    wwwtf is this??

  11. August 24, 2011

    psic88:

    Your freakish picture looks like a dead Stone Centipede.. The Geigerish hose-thing on its head is the stump of one of its antennae.

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