When are June beetles… not?

One of the April-flying species of scarab beetle. This specimen is Phyllophaga hirtiventris, a cousin to the turf-eating June beetle.

I’ve been getting questions about the numerous June beetles attracted to lights this spring.  Callers are wondering if the June beetles are coming earlier this year.  Is this another sign of global warming?

You can relax on this one.  The clunky, loud beetles bumping against your screen windows aren’t another sign of large-scale climate change.  These are the “early-bird” scarab beetles.  We could call them “April” or “May”beetles, though the term would be a loose one.  There are several species of scarab beetles, relatives of our June beetles, that typically emerge earlier in the season.

It turns out that Texas boasts dozens of species of scarab beetles that share some resemblance to our common June beetle or Junebug.  One of the differences among species is the preferred food.  Some of these beetles feed on composting vegetable matter, others on tree or shrub or flower roots, still others on turfgrass, corn or other grassy plants.  Fortunately, only a few species are damaging or regularly abundant enough to damage lawns and gardens.

Scarab beetles can be identified by their heavy bodies and long, spindly legs.  This body design is better for digging than crawling in most species.  Try to contain a beetle in your hand, and through the scratching and tickling, you’ll see how powerful these digging insects can be.  For more information about June beetle white grubs, check out our AgriLife Bookstore factsheet on White Grubs in Texas Turfgrass.

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