Have you ever found a June bug (also known as a June beetle) hanging around your vegetable garden? If so, you might have felt both grossed out, and concerned for your crop. These little brown or iridescent green beetles hang out in large numbers in early summer, and are drawn to porch lights on warm nights.
Fortunately, although these bugs might be a bit creepy to you, they’re actually beneficial to the garden.
Here are some great facts about these fascinating little beetles, and why it’s a good idea to befriend them.
Types of June Bugs
June bugs are members of scarab beetle family, and have been around for over 230 million years and counting. Their resiliency has allowed them to out-survive even the dinosaurs, and hundreds of species thrive worldwide.
There are two main species of these beetles that you’re likely to see: either brown, or green. The green variety is less common in North America, but can be found in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia. These green insects enjoy going out during the day and don’t tend to swarm in large numbers. In contrast, the brown variety enjoys larger group numbers and are nocturnal.
You’ll find both of these types worldwide. In fact, if you live in a warm area—even in a place where you just have hot summers—you’ll likely see June bugs. For this reason, they’re most abundant in the southern United States and northern Mexico.
Differences Between the Two
The brown variety tend to grow to around one inch in length. Their bodies are oblong in shape, with hard, brown wings and six hairy legs. Turn them over, and you’ll notice a yellow or green-colored belly. This variety doesn’t fly well, but can take enthusiastic leaps.
The green insects are more beautiful. Their shells tend to be an iridescent, almost emerald green hue, and their bellies are golden. This variety is also smaller, and they grow into a pentagon shape that is flatter rather than round.
Both of these types walk and fly quite clumsily. At mentioned, they’re attracted to lights at night and often wind up inside people’s homes as a result. This is why you see them bouncing around porch lights, and also why some people assume these beetles are blind. They’re kind of oafish.
Ther larvae (grubs) are white in color and show up in springtime. During the winter, they dive deeper into warm soil, then pupate for a couple of weeks in the late spring until they mature completely. They’ll live underground for one more year until the next spring season. At this point, the adults crawl to the surface to mate, lay eggs, and die.
3 Fascinating June Bug Facts
Although it might be difficult to believe, having these critters in your yard isn’t such a bad thing.
1. They Probably Won’t Eat Your Favorite Plants, but May Still Cause Damage
These bugs can damage some crops, but they tend to prefer shrubs and trees. Larvae prefer to dine on decaying plant matter in the soil, but can also occasionally cause damage by eating plant roots. If you’re dealing with a large infestation, they may damage your lawn as well. Most gardeners easily combat this issue by rotating their crops and plowing early in the spring.
Females lay their eggs a few inches deep in the soil, typically close to trees. Larvae live underground for the first 1-4 years—depending on the species—and feed on plant roots. Grubs enjoy feasting on the roots of grass, vegetables, shrubs, trees, and flowers. Turf grass and vegetable seedlings like potatoes and carrots are often the biggest casualties.
Grubs vs. Adults
If you notice your grass peeling away from the ground, that may indicate a grub invasion. They might also devour vegetable seedlings you plant in early spring. With a massive infestation, your yard may also feel spongy when you walk across it. This is because the larvae tunnel in their search for more food. This in turn can lead predators like moles tunnelling after those tasty grubs, which can wreak havoc on your garden.
The adults, on the other hand, tend to go after tree leaves. They like to hide underneath the leaves during the day, and oak or walnut trees are popular among the critters. You may also see them feasting on the moss living on tree bark.
For the most part, a June bug at any stage of the life cycle should not eat anyone plant or tree to the point where they will cause severe and unwanted damage. Because the larvae also eat decaying plant matter, they can actually benefit your plants in small numbers.
2. These Insects Won’t Hurt You
June bugs are harmless to both people and their pets. In fact, these beetles can’t sting, bite, or spread any kind of disease. The worst they can do is into you at night and startle you a bit. Because they’re attracted to the light, they may swarm around a well-lit area at night and crawl on you. Just remember that they aren’t harmful: just clumsy.
The only reason these beetles are considered pests is that they lay a lot of eggs at once. As a result, these high grub numbers can cause damage if they don’t leave your yard, or act as a food source for other beneficial animals. A typical female June bug will lay around 75 eggs each summer, so you can imagine how many can reach maturity and cause damage.
3. They Feed Other Beneficial Animals
June bugs are an excellent source of protein for wild animals, and many love to feast on these tasty treats. Animals will feed on both the larvae and adults, but some are more particular about which types they eat.
The animals who root out the grubs from the soil for food include:
- Birds – crows, grackles, blue jays, mockingbirds, owls, crows
While the animals who tend to stick to eating the adults include:
- Box turtles
Lastly, there are also some insects that use June bugs in a different way. There are multiple types of parasitic wasps and flies, for example. They lay their own eggs directly onto both adult or larvae June bugs so that when they hatch, they devour entirely their host as a food source.
Many of the animals listed above can benefit your garden in various ways. Although burrowing animals like moles and gophers can dig up your yard, and possums can be an issue if they decide to live under your house, most of the aforementioned critters are good to have around.
Toads and frogs, for example, are some of the best animals to attract. They’ll keep the bug population under control, and all common lizards like geckos also enjoy these bugs. Birds like blue jays are also particularly helpful, as they won’t just feast on your June bug population—they’ll also destroy any paper wasp nests to get at the larvae within.
Attracting these animals to your yard is often as simple as offering up a food source. As a result, if you have plenty of June bugs, the problem will take care of itself. That said, you can also work toward establishing a balance by attracting the wildlife you want.
What If You Have Too Many June Bugs?
Using pesticides or other chemicals on your garden will poison the June bugs, but will also harm other beneficial flora and fauna in the area. As such, natural control methods are the best route. Pesticides lead to a number of harmful risks you’re better off avoiding, such as polluting water runoff and endangering your family’s health.
If you have too many June bugs and need to balance out the population, aim for animal control. Literally.
Try introducing nematodes into your garden to handle the grubs, for example. These are easy to find at your local garden nursery or online, and you can add them into your soil in late summer to take care new larvae female June bugs may have lain. Just make sure to always follow package instructions.
To protect your garden against larvae in the soil and reduce the numbers of Japanese beetle larvae, flea larvae, maggots, or cutworms, you can also try milky spore. This is a natural bacterium called Bacillus popillate Dutky, and it is another top cure to combat a high grub population.
If you notice signs your garden is taking a hit from June bug grubs, removing any damaged organic matter that’s lying around. Then look for a natural predator you can introduce to your yard. Chickens and Guinea fowl, for example, love feasting on these beetles and their larvae, as do ducks and geese.
As an extra precaution, keeping your grass a little longer in the summer is known to help deter June bugs from laying their eggs in the lawn.