On warm evenings in early summer, you might be startled by a loud
on a lighted window - take a torch and investigate - there is a
it will be a Cockchafer or 'Maybug' attracted by the house lights . . . . . .
Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha) - adult beetle 25-35 mm long
Chafers are beetles (order Coleoptera), and belong to the
same family as the scarab or dung beetles (Scarabaeidae).
The most familiar of our chafers is the Cockchafer or 'Maybug'
(Melolontha melolontha) - the adult beetle (shown above) is a
night-flier and often comes crashing into lighted windows on warm evenings
in early summer. Its large size (25-35 mm long) and buzzing flight make
it a little frightening, but the beetle is quite harmless and will not
bite or sting.
Adult chafers eat the leaves and flowers of many deciduous
trees, shrubs and other plants, but rarely cause any serious damage in the UK.
However, their fat, white grubs (reaching 40-45 mm long when full grown)
live in the soil and feed on plant roots, especially those of grasses and
cereals, and are occasional pests in pastures, nurseries, gardens, and in
grassy amenity areas like golf-courses. The injury to grassland and lawns
results in poorly growing patches that quickly turn brown in dry weather;
the grubs can be found immediately below the surface, usually lying in a
characteristic comma-like position (as illustrated below). The grubs
sometimes attack vegetables and other garden plants, e.g. lettuce,
rasberry, strawberry and young ornamental trees. Injury to the roots and
rootstock causes small saplings and tender tap-rooted plants like
lettuce, to wilt suddenly or to show stunted growth and a tendancy to
shed leaves prematurely. Plants growing in rows are usually attacked in
succession as the grubs move along from one plant to the next. Chafer grubs
feed below ground for 3-4 years before changing into adult beetles.
Cockchafer larva (or 'white grub')
In Britain and other parts of Europe, several smaller species
of chafer beetles, as well as the large Cockchafer, can be serious garden and
(1) Welsh chafer (Hoplia philanthus), 8-9 mm long;
(2) Summer chafer (Amphimallon solstitiale), 14-18 mm long; (3) Brown
chafer (Serica brunnea), 8-10 mm long; (4) Garden chafer (Phyllopertha
horticola), 9-11 mm long; (5) Rose chafer (Cetonia aurata), 14-20 mm long.
Adults of all these chafers feed on leaves, buds and flowers
of deciduous trees and shrubs. Their grubs (except those of the Rose
chafer) eat plant roots and often cause damage to ornamentals, edible
crops, pastures and lawn grass. The grubs of all species resemble those
of the Cockchafer (see above).
Damage by chafer grubs can be reduced by cultural techniques, and
by the use of chemical and/or biological control methods if available. In small gardens
it is often sufficient to simply remove and kill the grubs by hand when they are found.
Thorough cultivation and good weed control of flower borders and vegetable plots will
generally ensure that plant losses are minimal. Infested lawns may benefit from heavy
rolling in late spring to kill pupae and emerging adults, and also from adequate watering
and feeding to encourage growth of the grass. When severe damage is caused, re-seeding of
bare patches in spring may be necessary. It is difficult to keep up to date with the range
of chemical and biological pesticides available to the general public for controlling
household and garden pests. Seek advice from a good pesticide stockist or garden centre
for currently approved insecticide products.
REMEMBER TO USE INSECTICIDES SAFELY AND FOLLOW ALL THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE PRODUCT LABEL