•The May Beetle
You probably know this one as the June Beetle, or the June Bug. It is the familiar brown beetle, maybe an inch long and half-an-inch wide. It has a slow, bumbling sort of behaviour, whether it is walking or flying.
There are a lot of different species of these insects–maybe 100 or more–in North America.
While the adult does eat the leaves of many different plants, the main damage is caused by the larval stage. These are called white grubs, and they live just under the surface of the ground.
The life cycle of these beetles is a bit out of the ordinary. The white grubs live in the ground for either two or three years, depending on the species. While they are there, they live on the roots of plants.
The damage they do is especially hard on grass plants, including corn and forage grasses.
They also can live in large numbers under your lawn, where they happily devour the roots of your lawn grasses.
In late summer and fall, you may see a lot of holes dug in your lawn. They are caused by skunks, who are very fond of the white grubs, and look for them mainly at night.
Control of the June Beetle is not easy. Good clean farm practices, full plowing, and crop rotation all help on the farm. At home, till your garden in the fall, and move your corn patch each year.
On the other hand, this small insect (also known as the Ladybird or Lady Beetle) is one of the gardener’s best friends. There are about 500 species of these in North America, and they live solely on soft-bodied insects like aphids and mealybugs, which are always eating your plants.
A Ladybug can do away with over 60 of these in a day.
While many of these insects are native to North America, many of them are not. About 175 different species have been imported, and for a long time.
In the 1860s, there was a huge outbreak of “cushion scale” in the citrus groves of California. A special Ladybug was imported from Australia, a pretty little one–red and black.
It pretty well saved the orange groves in a couple of years.
There is a wide variation in both colour and size. Many are orange, red, or yellow with black spots or bands. People commonly call them by their spots–Seven-spotted, Thirteen-spotted, and so on. One is called Eye-spotted because it has black spots with yellow rings around them.
The Three-bonded has three black bands across its orange back. And so on, for 500 of them.
Size goes from a couple of millimetres (1/8 inch) to about two cm (3/4 inch).
The name Lady-something came from the middle ages. These insects were dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Our Lady) because of their ability to control garden pests.
You can now buy a boxful of Ladybugs to put into your garden, instead of spraying or dusting.
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home.
Your house is afire, your children alone.
In England, the hop farmers (hops are used for beer) had bad trouble with aphids. So after harvest, they burned up all the vines. However, the Ladybugs all got burned up at the same time.
So the poor Ladybug’s house was “afire” every fall.
So there are two beetles, one a complete pest and the other totally beneficial. When you are on the warpath for bugs, try to do away with only the bad ones.
•The May Beetle