June Bugs Are Christmas Bugs

Just because they’re not active in December doesn’t mean these pretty scarab beetles don’t fit the holiday season.

Green as a Christmas tree or red as Santa’s suit, what could be more Christmas-y than a June bug?

I know, I know, I should’ve posted this in June, but they’re Christmas colored so we’re doing them now. Let’s hear it for June bugs!

Also referred to as May beetles (which really isn’t helping my case), June bugs are named for ushering in the beginning of summer (which isn’t helping either). Almost as iconic as fireflies and tent caterpillars, June bugs can be found buzzing around your lawn or basking beside the pool deck in the early months of summer vacation. It’s really a shame these guys don’t show up at Christmas time, though, because they actually fit the holiday theme pretty well. Beside the matching color scheme, they’re also shiny like ornaments! Imagine a bunch of little June bugs dancing around your Christmas tree, wouldn’t that be fun?

Some of you audibly said “no” to that, and it saddens me.

Although we lump the green ones into the name, “June bug” typically just refers to the red and orange beetles; the green ones are actually figeater beetles or a species more specifically called green June beetles. Both bugs are scarab beetles, but figeaters and green June bugs belong to the subfamily Cetoniinae while the traditional June bugs are part of the Melolothinae subfamily. I’d go ahead and retitle this post “Scarab Beetles” now, but there are over 30,000 different scarabs ranging from dung beetles to rhinoceros beetles, so you can see how that would be slightly problematic. So, instead of lumping them together, let’s just call the red June bugs “holly berry beetles” and the figeaters “figgy pudding beetles.” Boom – they’re even more Christmas-y now!

 As cute as they are, holly berry beetles aren’t always the best beetles to have around; they’re voracious herbivores and they’re obsessed with your porchlights. I don’t know about you, but neither having my lawn and flowers chewed up nor being bombarded by light-disoriented beetles in the evening would be considered my favorite aspects of summer.

Figgy pudding beetles aren’t ideal for a healthy lawn or garden either – I guess it’s in the name, but they do have a soft spot for figs. And peaches. And flowers. And tomatoes. And basically everything else you weren’t planning on sharing with big, dazzling arthropods. The best way to prevent these guys from eating up your fruit is simple enough: pick it when it’s ripe! The only thing figgy pudding beetles love more than ripe fruit is rotting fruit, although they are partial to both.

Figgy pudding beetles have also scared me from time to time with their loud buzzing, which sounds ridiculously similar to that of a bee. This sound is actually caused by the beetle’s elytra, those shiny outer wings that beetles possess to cover their soft flying wings when they’re not airborne. Figgy pudding beetles don’t open their elytra all the way while they fly like some other beetles do, which makes them rather loud and slow. Sometimes it seems like a beetle may be chasing you or bumping into you on purpose, but I’ve seen many a figgy pudding beetle fly smack into a wall; it’s probably not intentionally bothering you, their partly-closed elytra just make them super clumsy.

While holly berry and figgy pudding beetles aren’t ideal neighbors, they tend to not be much of a nuisance if they don’t arrive in huge droves. Aside from the fact that these basically domesticated beetles tend to live almost entirely off garden crops rather than wild plants, they at least have a lot going for them aesthetically. They have beautiful exoskeletons, they don’t bite, and they typically don’t mind being handled as long as you’re gentle. Plus, they’re super easy to photograph, unlike most of the arthropods I’ve tried to capture on camera for this blog (y’all do not want to know how much effort went into that water strider picture). And figgy pudding larvae are excellent detritivores! The adults can be annoying, sure, but at least they don’t eat nearly as much as the birds, deer and other large animals do. And they’re cute! I could spare some tomatoes if it meant seeing these little guys flying around in the summertime, they’re neat.

…Maybe I shouldn’t be saying that it’s okay for holly berry and figgy pudding beetles to be a nuisance just because they’re cute. I feel like that must be how some invasive species became a problem, with people just letting them stay because they looked cool even if they were messing with the environment. Hmm. Oh well, we won’t have to deal with holly berry and figgy pudding beetles again until the summer anyways.

Seriously though, if anyone comes across a June bug ornament, let me know.

5 Comments on “June Bugs Are Christmas Bugs

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