7 amazing cockchafer facts

Discover fascinating facts about the May bug.

Cockchafer
1

Flying lessons

One of Britain’s bulkiest beetles, the 3-cm-long cockchafer can be heard and seen buzzing and bumping against light fittings and window panes (more commonly in the south) from late April to July.

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2

 Stealthy appetites

Until pesticides started controlling them in the Twentieth Century, cockchafers were a serious agricultural pest. The grubs (sometimes called rookworms as they are prized by corvids) can devastate cereal crops. The adults eat leaves and flowers.

3

Emergent effects

In 1320, an Avignon court sentenced cockchafers to exile in a special reserve – the beetles did not comply. In 1574, cockchafers emerged in such numbers in the Severn valley that the volume of carcasses disabled watermills.

4

Stingless in the tail

The intimidating sharp point at the tip of a cockchafer’s abdomen is not a sting, but a pygidium – used by females to push their eggs deep into the soil.

5

Name games

The cockchafer is sometimes known as the doodlebug. Because of the buzz of its flight, this nickname was used for Germany’s V-1 flying bomb in World War II.

6

Under, over

It spends most of its three- to four-year life-cycle underground as a larva eating roots, pupating after three summers. Adults emerge before winter, but stay buried until spring.

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7

Engine room

Physicist Nikola Tesla used four cockchafers to power a motor as a boy.