May Beetles (June Bugs), MDC Discover Nature
May Beetles (June Bugs)
Scarabaeidae (scarab beetles) in the order Coleoptera (beetles)
May beetles are usually brown, rusty, or black, without patterns such as spots or stripes, and rather hairy beneath. They are nocturnal and are attracted to lights at night. They walk and fly clumsily.
May beetles belong to a large family of beetles called scarabs. As with other scarabs, they are oval, stout, and have clubbed antennae with segments that can press tightly together or can be fanned open like a feather.
The larvae of most scarab beetles are whitish, C-shaped grubs that live underground. The heads are often brownish, and they have three pairs of legs. They are often called “white grubs.”
Length: ½–1 inch (adults); ¾–2 inches (larvae) (varies with species).
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It wouldn’t be a late-spring Missouri evening without May beetles flying clumsily around porch lights, crash-landing, lying on their backs and waving their legs helplessly. Though they chew plants, they cannot hurt people. The white larvae are well-known to anyone who digs in the soil. Because May beetles can damage crops, control measures are often taken, but rotating crops, strategically timed plowing, and nature’s own controls can keep infestations from being an annual event.
Adult May beetles eat plant leaves (the genus name, Phyllophaga, means “leaf eater”) and flowers. Larval May beetles (grubs) eat roots and decaying plant material in the soil. When they are numerous, then can damage lawns, gardens, and crops.