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Quick facts

Common names: cockchafer beetle, May bug, common cockchafer

Scientific name: Melolontha melolontha

Family: Scarabaeidae

Habitat: parks and gardens, meadows, agricultural fields

Predators: rooks and other birds feed on the larvae

Origin: native

What do cockchafer beetles look like?

Adults: cockchafer beetles are large and bulky, growing up to 30mm in length. It has characteristic fanned antennae, a black body, and brown legs and wingcases. Their undersides are covered with fine white hairs. Males have seven ‘feathers’ to each antennae while females have six.

Larvae: are large yellow-white grubs with light brown heads.

Cockchafer beetle female close-up

Credit: Ray Wilson / Alamy Stock Photo

What do cockchafer beetles eat?

Adults: eat flowers and leaves, rarely to a destructive level in the UK.
Larvae: are considered an agricultural pest when in large numbers, as they feed on vegetable and grass roots.

How do cockchafer beetles breed?

Adult cockchafers only live for six weeks, using this time to search for a mate. Females lay their eggs in the soil and, once hatched, the larvae spend between three and five years growing underground.

Cockchafer beetle in flight

Credit: Hans Christoph Kappel / naturepl.com

Where do cockchafer beetles live?

Cockchafer beetles live in a wide range of habitats. However, they prefer fields, meadows and grassland for their larvae to develop in.

Signs and spotting tips

The adult beetles emerge and are active between May and July. They have a very loud flight, so be sure to keep an ear out around woodland edges and in parkland.

On the wing, they are large and ungainly and can cause quite a stir. You might even notice one bumping into a lit window in urban areas.

Cockchafer beetle larvae on soil

Credit: Frank Hecker / Alamy Stock Photo

Threats and conservation

The use of pesticides harmed numbers of cockchafers in the UK in the 20th century. Numbers are now recovering.