It has been a strange start to the year. Cockchafers appear in the fairy tales "Thumbelina" by Hans Christian Andersen and "Princess Rosette" by Madame d'Aulnoy. At present, no chemical pesticides are approved for use against cockchafers, and only biological measures are utilised for control: for instance, pathogenic fungi or nematodes that kill the grubs are applied to the soil. Cockchafer larvae can also be fried or cooked over open flames, although they require some preparation by soaking in vinegar in order to purge them of soil in their digestive tracts. Pomerania is burned to the ground 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. Deine Mutter ist in Pommerland These help us understand and improve your and other users’ experience with the website, and make it easy for you to share pages. Maikäfer flieg! The Cockchafer has long been a source of fascination for children. I dread to think how this beast manages to fly! 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. Their grubs are even more dangerous. The cockchafer was the basis for the "fifth trick" in the well-known illustrated German book Max and Moritz, dating from 1865. The name "cockchafer" derives from late 17th century usage of "cock" (in the sense of expressing size or vigour) + "chafer" which simply means an insect of this type, referring to its propensity for gnawing and damaging plants. M. pectoralis Germar, 1824. Once abundant throughout Europe and a major pest in the periodical years of "mass flight", it had been nearly eradicated in the middle of the 20th century through extensive use of pesticides and has even been locally exterminated in many regions. As such, the name "cockchafer" can be understood to mean "large plant-gnawing beetle" and is applicable to its history as a pest animal. The preferred food for adults is oak leaves, but they will also feed on conifer needles. In recent years, the cockchafer's numbers have been increasing again, causing damage to over 1,000 km2 of land all over Europe. It is too easy to liberally spray chemicals around, but there is always a knock-on effect. Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use. The presence of swarms of cockchafers gives warning that nearby their grubs are probably just below the surface of the soil. In 1320, for instance, cockchafers were brought to court in Avignon and sentenced to withdraw within three days onto a specially designated area, otherwise they would be outlawed. She may do this several times until she has laid between 60 and 80 eggs. This edited article about beetles originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 196 published on 16 October 1965. M. melolontha (Linnaeus, 1758) (Similar animal trials also occurred for many other animals in the Middle Ages.). Despite their clumsiness, these winged beetles are destructive, for they find their food by stripping foliage from trees. 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. They have hard brown heads with powerful jaws, and their bodies have three pairs of legs. The cockchafer overwinters in the earth at depths between 20 and 100 cm. Your mother is in Pomerania By the 1970s, some areas had seen their populations nearly extinct. In some areas and times, cockchafers were served as food. In the past, Cockchafers were numerous around Europe – in 1911, 20 million individuals were collected from an 18km-squared piece of woodland. 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. The European cockchafer, belonging to the scarabaediae family of beetles, is destructive chiefly to unimportant vegetation. But its counterpart in North America, the May beetle, often does great damage to strawberry plants and cornfields. 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. © 2005-2020 Look and Learn - All rights reserved, Orwell – the Old Etonian tramp who became a visionary, Asquith’s premiership was a casualty of World War One, The clumsy cockchafer is a dangerous flying beetle. Posted in Insects, News, Wildlife on Thursday, 14 March 2013. The term "chafer" has its root in Old English ceafor or cefer, of Germanic origin and is related to the Dutch kever, all of which mean "gnawer" as it relates to the jaw. Only with the modernization of agriculture in the 20th century and the invention of chemical pesticides did it become possible to effectively combat the cockchafer. After about two weeks, the female begins laying eggs, which she buries about 10 to 20 cm deep in the earth. The adults last only a few weeks and are in constant danger from night-time enemies – owls, bats and hedgehogs. ), which are native to North America, nor with the summer chafer (or "European June bug", Amphimallon solstitiale), which emerges in June and has a two-year life cycle. Cockchafer fly! Both have a brown colour. These beetles usually appear around late April – early May and can frequently be seen and heard flying into lit windows and even lamps indoors! It’s just part of our commitment to the environment. The cockchafer should not be confused with the similar European chafer (Rhizotrogus majalis), which has a completely different life cycle, nor with the June beetles (Phyllophaga spp. Then count yourself lucky, as in southern Germany is another type of Cockchafer, called the Large Cockchafer. The common cockchafer is the UK's largest scarab beetle (scarabs include dung beetles and chafers). They work their way to the surface only in spring. The species M. pectoralis looks similar, but its pygidium is rounded. Apart for the danger of ‘collateral damage’, we can’t always guarantee only the pest insects will take the bait, using the wrong amounts of many chemicals will just lead to a tolerance build-up in the pest. This was considered a major problem. In this way, we are not only effective at removing the problem, but also, we are greatly reducing the amount of chemicals left in the environment. Instead they use biological methods – adding pathogenic fungi or nematodes to the soil, which will kill May bug grubs. The cockchafer grubs are fat, white and fleshy, living in underground cells in which they curl themselves up crescent-wise. The European cockchafer, belonging to the scarabaediae family of beetles, is destructive chiefly to unimportant vegetation. These grubs, or larvae, live underground for up to four years, digging themselves in deeper during frost. Subsequently, since they failed to comply, they were collected and killed. In 1320, the city of Avignon, in southern France, put the Cockchafer on trial and banished them. Both the grubs and imagos have a voracious appetite and thus have been and sometimes continue to be a major problem in agriculture and forestry. Their undersides are covered with fine white hairs. PS. In the Middle Ages, pest control was rare, and people had no effective means to protect their harvest. The way many pest controllers have traditionally dealt with this problem is to just use more and more chemicals, but we’ve worked hard at trying to effectively target pesticides to reduce their usage and started to use traditional and environmentally responsible methods. 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. It is a clumsy flier and makes a buzzing sound. So, when you next see a May bug, doodlebug, chovy or Billy witch, remember – however alarming it may look, it isn’t a cockroach, it isn’t going to sting you, and while it may do some damage to your garden, it won’t harm you. In ancient Greece, boys caught the insect, tied a linen thread to its feet and set it free, amusing themselves to watch it fly in spirals. The larvae, known as "white grubs" or "chafer grubs", hatch after four to six weeks. The cockchafer is featured in a German children's rhyme similar to the English Ladybird, Ladybird: Maikäfer flieg... With its rusty-brown wing cases, pointed 'tail' and fan-like antennae it is unmistakeable. Since World War II, it is associated in Germany also with the closing months of that war, when Soviet troops advanced into eastern Germany. This handsome chap is the Common cockchafer, also referred to as the May bug, the Spang beetle or the Billy witch.  A cockchafer stew is referred to in W. G. Sebald's novel The Emigrants. For example, with bed bugs we now use a combination of residual insecticide and a diatomaceous insecticide – a natural rock that when ingested by the insects dehydrates them. The male uses these antennae to detect pheromones, meaning he can find a mate even in the dark. Once you have seen a flying May bug you won’t forget it; especially if one gets caught in your electric fly killer! They are the prey of moles, birds, or even pigs and poultry rooting in the soil. The grubs have their own enemies, too. The male of the species has seven leaves on each antenna, whereas the female has only six. The problem of crop damage still remains, however, and currently there are no pesticides licensed for Cockchafer management. They feed on plant roots, for instance potato roots. The destructive cockchafer grub (next to bottom) can be seen in February by. M. hippocastani Fabricius, 1801 What makes these beetles stand out, apart from the seemingly impossible feat of them being able to fly, are their unusual fanned antennae. There have been four Royal Navy ships named HMS Cockchafer. , Collecting adults was an only moderately successful method.