Scarab Beetles

Austin is a college town and each fall thousands of naive young people move here. Austin also promotes a kind of alcohol tourism masquerading as a music scene. Combine the two phenomena and the results can be … dramatic.

I did not expect to see something similar happen in my own backyard with wildlife but for the past two weeks we’ve been bombarded with fig beetles. They could be green June bugs. Even the people at Bugguide didn’t really try to parse it out. Take your pick but from now on I am going to call them freshman beetles.

scarab cotinis
Cotinis something-or-other

They bumble into the yard. Very loudly and with a sputtering buzz buzz pfifft. They are adorably boisterous, literally bouncing off the walls. Or tree trunks. Or me. They could simply be terrible at flying but I am guessing they might be drunk on fermenting fruit.

Hold the pesticides! They aren’t pests even if they do look an awful lot like Japanese beetles. Yes. You might see them devouring the Mexican plums but the situation isn’t as bad as it looks. Fig beetles exploit holes already pecked open by birds; their weak mandibles aren’t responsible for the initial cut. They are eating away at stuff that nobody would harvest anyway.

cotinis belly
The underbelly of the beast. Is it praying? Hungover? I found it in a cup! When I flipped the beetle over it burrowed into the mulch the way some people crawl into bed after a long night.

They are absolutely new to our property. Some variable is shifting here. I have to wonder if it is connected to the missing wasps. The wasps left, the bees moved in and now these guys appear. I don’t have any fruit ripening at the moment but I just laid out some fresh mulch. I think they are looking for places to lay eggs. The larvae like to eat decaying matter. I am so glad they found the welcome mat.

First honey bees and now scarabs. I really do feel like the ancient Egyptian gods are trying to get our attention!

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27 thoughts on “Scarab Beetles

  1. I love the folks at Bugguide which has a Facebook page too but sometimes there are no takers and then sometimes I find that some very bright teenager knows the answer… Thanks for the no pesticides reminder.. I can send you some wasps.. which kind would you like…Michelle

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    1. haha I still have a few wasps luckily. I just don’t have huge colonies anymore. For my purposes it hardly matters whether they are fig beetles or green June bugs since play a similar role, neither are pests and they are fun to watch. The two beetles overlap here in Texas so it is hard for even experts to tell them apart — especially if the photo doesn’t give enough info.

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  2. That green…it almost looks artificial – so saturated and the iridescence… Wow wow wow. I love that you’ve stumped the BugGuiders – they are so well informed and yet there are simply these boundaries the information previously amassed does not yet cross. It is a good reminder that we barely know how much we still don’t know about our companions outside our doors.

    I think you may be onto something with your rotational theory of bug populations. It certainly seems probable that when a niche is created, something (or somebody) will show up to fill that. And while I know you missed your wasps at one point, it does seem you are keeping some exotic company in their stead. Perhaps not an entirely bad trade!

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    1. It has been really interesting to me to watch this property slowly change over time. Small things can have big results. I think we lost the wasps because I don’t leave much of the clay surface exposed. I am using a lot more mulch so there isn’t a lot of dirt for them to daub. Hopefully they have just gone somewhere else or this could mean their numbers are more reasonable for this space. I do miss them but woodland like bugs moving into this shaded place is probably a really good sign.

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    1. I was a bit concerned at first that they might be Japanese beetles because I have heard the rumours about their destructive tendencies.

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  3. Beautiful beetles! I love your opening analogy. They could be drunk. I once locked myself in my bedroom with a wasp in order to rid myself of my fear of wasps. We got along famously until the poor wasp happened upon a not-wholly-eaten apple I’d left on a shelf. It got so drunk that it died and I felt horrible.

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    1. Oh my gosh! Maybe it just died because it was time? You were so brave to do that. I used to be nervous around wasps until I lived here. They are surprisingly gentle creatures. Hornets though … I would not be happy to share a space with them.

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