Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Christmas Beetle

I was reading on the veranda late the other night when I was suddenly bombarded by what could have been empty walnut shells. I actually thought someone was throwing things at me - some drunk neighbor, not an uncommon thing - then I saw beetle in a planter:

I picked it up and got some shots, most of which did not come out because it was too dark. One good one:

Look at those claws!

Here's a beetle butt:

I put the beetle back into the planter, and in thirty seconds or so it was gone—dug down into the soil. Ah, I thought, "it" is a "she," and she's gone to lay some eggs. Research must be done...

Christine's sister Shannon said she thought it was a Christmas Beetle. They show up every summer, and, she said, look like our friend here.

She's right, no doubt about it. And I was right that she was going to lay eggs. Photo herelife cycle description here:
The life cycle of a Christmas beetle is from one to two years. The larvae of Christmas beetles live and develop in the soil for about a year, eating decaying organic matter and plant roots of mainly native grasses and other vegetation. In agricultural land larvae can feed on the roots of crops and pasture. In urban areas larvae often feed on the roots of turf. This feeding can cause plants to turn yellow and wither. 
Toward the end of winter the larvae move closer to the soil surface and pupate. The adults emerge several weeks later and dig their way out of the soil. They then fly to the nearest food plant to feed. And of course their other main duty at this stage is to mate. They then lay eggs in the soil close to their food source.
There are 35 different species, 8 in the Sydney area. And I may have to dig up those eggs, put them in soil in a glass jar, and watch them. Stay tuned...


  1. Very Cool Thom. I was always finding amazing insects when we lived in Iowa, some of which I would keep as temporary pets. My faves were the praying mantises. Do you have them down there? I believe there is only one species of mantis native to the US, the rest are Asian imports. They are actually related to cockroaches and if you look at a roach closely you will see the similarity, especially if they stand up slightly and "pray" with their front legs.

  2. I've just out we do have them here. I do know they have some huge walking sticks here - we used to find them in Buffalo when i was a kid. And I did not know that about the cockroaches.