Paul Leyland – Common Cockchafer

Paul writes: this beautiful pinkish brown beetle, the Common Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha), is a regular night time visitor to many gardens. I usually see them from the beginning of May to the middle of June, this one appeared on 14 May. They fly at night and are attracted to lights, so are often brought to my attention by crashing into a well lit window. They then stumble around outside on the ground making a frenetic buzzing noise with their wings. Sometimes in the morning I will find one outside the house on its back, seemingly helpless, but once given a helping hand will right itself before flying off. Both males and females have huge orange fan like antennae, they are often laid flat so can be hard to see, but when extended are unforgettable. The males have seven leaves on each antennae, the females six, so this one looks like a male. Their life cycle begins as an egg which hatches into a white grub. This then lives underground for up to three years where it feeds on roots and tubers, growing to around 40mm. Its life as an adult is very short, only around six weeks. Cockchafers used to be abundant and were considered an agricultural pest but the use of pesticides has dramatically reduced their numbers. However they are still common and widespread, mainly in England & Wales.