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June 2009 cover image loblolly pines at Sam Rayburn

Wild Thing: June Bug

That thud you hear in the night is probably a confused beetle.

By Sheryl Smith-Rogers

Turn on the porch light tonight, and it won’t be long before some June bugs (Phyllophaga crinita) come knocking. Literally. Into the night, they’ll thud against walls and crawl up screens, drawn relentlessly to the light … until you turn it out.

Certainly, a June bug’s persistence merits respect. But that’s about it for these brown scarab beetles, named for the month when their mating flights peak (they’re also called May beetles for the same reason). Other than being a prickly-legged nuisance, adult June bugs are harmless.

By the way, those are mostly males flirting with your porch light. Done with mating, females have left to tunnel in the soil and lay 40 or so eggs. In three or four weeks, the larvae hatch. Commonly called white grubs, the C-shaped, cream-colored bodies resemble inch-long maggots with six tiny legs. Underground, they dine on dead plants, then hibernate through winter.

The next year, grubs may eat the roots of lawn grass, vegetables, crops and other plants, causing extensive damage. After pupating, adult beetles emerge in the spring. In North Texas, the cycle may last two years. Come May and June, you guessed it — the door knocking resumes.

FYI:

Next time you find a grub, set it on the ground and see what happens. If it turns on its back with its feet in the air and scoots away, you’ve got a green June beetle (cotinis nitida). Compared to June bug grubs, green June beetle larvae are less destructive.

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