The adult cockchafers emerge in the autumn but remain underground asleep until the late spring, when they spread their transparent wings and stagger off into the evening air. The name "cockchafer"[8] derives from late 17th century usage of "cock"[9] (in the sense of expressing size or vigour) + "chafer"[10] which simply means an insect of this type, referring to its propensity for gnawing and damaging plants.
What do cockchafer beetles look like? The preferred food for adults is oak leaves, but they will also feed on conifer needles. Both have a brown colour. It is too easy to liberally spray chemicals around, but there is always a knock-on effect. [6] Nikola Tesla recalls that as a child he made one of his first "inventions"—an "engine" made by harnessing four cockchafers in this fashion.[7]. But its counterpart in North America, the May beetle, often does great damage to strawberry plants and cornfields. This gave rise to events that seem bizarre from a modern perspective. Instead they use biological methods – adding pathogenic fungi or nematodes to the soil, which will kill May bug grubs. They were once very abundant: in 1911, more than 20 million individuals were collected in 18 km2 of forest. The common cockchafer is the UK's largest scarab beetle (scarabs include dung beetles and chafers). The May bug or doodlebug - Latin name Melolontha melolontha – known as the Spang beetle and Billy witch in Suffolk and the chovy, mitchamador, kittywitch or midsummer dor in Norfolk, is actually the Common Cockchafer. Cockchafers appear in the fairy tales "Thumbelina" by Hans Christian Andersen and "Princess Rosette" by Madame d'Aulnoy. Once you have seen a flying May bug you won’t forget it; especially if one gets caught in your electric fly killer!
The grubs develop in the earth for three to four years, in colder climates even five years, and grow continually to a size of about 4–5 cm, before they pupate in early autumn and develop into an adult cockchafer in six weeks. Posted in Insects, News, Wildlife on Thursday, 14 March 2013. English boys in Victorian times played a very similar game by sticking a pin through one of its wings. This edited article about beetles originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 196 published on 16 October 1965. These grubs, or larvae, live underground for up to four years, digging themselves in deeper during frost. Since then, agriculture has generally reduced its use of pesticides. In Ancient Greece, it is described as a common practice for boys to catch a Cockchafer, tie a linen thread to its feet and then enjoy it flying in circles. After about two weeks, the female begins laying eggs, which she buries about 10 to 20 cm deep in the earth. The two species can best be distinguished by the form of their tail end: it is long and slender in the common cockchafer, but shorter and knob-shaped at the end in the forest. However, as people started to understand the dangers of pesticides – residues entering the food-chain and insect resistance – and usage has decreased, the numbers have slowly recovered.

In some areas and times, cockchafers were served as food. We would like your permission to use third party cookies.

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