June Bug (Cockchafer, May Beetle, Chafer Beetle)

The article is written by Pavlo Chaika, the chief editor of the "Piznavayka" magazine. Since its founding in 2013, Pavlo Chaika has been dedicated to popularizing science in the world. The main goal, both of the magazine and of this article, is to explain complex scientific topics in a simple and accessible language.

June Bug


  • Description and Characteristics

  • Lifespan

  • Habitat

  • Lifestyle

  • Diet

  • Enemies

  • Species

  • Life Cycle and Reproduction

  • How to Get Rid of June Bugs?

  • How to Keep June Bugs Away?

  • Interesting Facts

  • References and Further Reading

    The June bug (also known as the cockchafer, May beetle, May bug or chafer beetle) is especially well known to gardeners and not from the best side since it is one of the most dangerous pests. This insect got its name due to the habit of appearing in the spring. In May-June, the June bug begins its active work. What are the habits of the June bug? What is its appearance? How to get rid of May beetle? We’ll talk about this in our article.

    Description and Characteristics

    What does a june bug look like? The June bug is an arthropod insect; it belongs to the order of beetles, the family of platinfreet; the genus of May beetles.

    June bug is quite big, especially for insects. Some individuals reach 17.5-31.5 mm long. They have a broad and convex body with an elongated oval shape and with black or red-brown color. Besides this, the body of the June bug is under the protection of a chitinous shell, it consists of the head, chest, and abdomen.

    June Bug

    A June bug’s wings are protected by posterior elytra of reddish-brown or yellow-brown color. A June bug’s head is small and drawn into the elytra; it has a dark color, although there are beetles with a greenish tinge on the head.

    The May beetle is a very hairy creature. It is almost completely covered with fur of different length, thickness, and color. Usually, the fur of a cockchafer is white, yellow, or gray.

    June Bug

    The longest fur is in longitudinal strips adorn the head of the June bug. Elytra has long, single, sticking out fur, while the chest is covered with yellow fur.

    A June bug’s abdomen consists of eight segments with small holes – the spiracles, which play an important role in the life of the insect. It is through them the air enters the breathing tubes, the trachea and spreads throughout the entire body of the beetle.

    Майский жук

    The June bug has three pairs of legs. The first pair of legs comes from the front breast, the second pair from the mid-breast, and the third from the rear breast.

    Some people ask: are June bugs blind? No. A June bug’s eyes have a convex shape and a complex structure (each compound eye consists of several thousand simple eyes), and allows them to see under a wide viewing angle.

    A June bug’s antennae have an olfactory function (in general, important for insects).

    June Bug

    A June bug’s oral apparatus has a gnawing type, so these beetles easily eat the shoots of plants. There are three pairs of oral appendages at the edges of the mouth: the first is the sting, the second – the lower jaw, and the third forms the lower lip. The beetle uses both lower and upper jaws while eating.

    The chitinous shield of the May beetle has a semi-oval shape.


    How long do June bugs live? June bugs have a certain life cycle. 4-5 years pass while they only form as larvae under the ground. After becoming an adult beetle and getting to the surface, they live only 5-7 weeks.


    June bugs live over a wide geographic range: in Europe, Asia, North America and even on some islands of Oceania. Anyway, most species of June bug live in the temperate climate zone, although there are species living in the hot tropics.

    Cockchafers prefer woodland, near rivers, where there is not only food but also loose sandy and soil. Yet, in places with clay soil, the May beetles are absent. The reason is that their females can’t dig a tunnel and lay eggs in such a soil.

    June Bug


    In spring, when green leaves begin to bloom in the trees, the May beetle males appear. The females join them after 7-10 days. Many species of June bug are especially active at night and in the evening. Some June bugs actively fly in the morning before dawn; sometimes they are attracted by artificial sources of illumination. Yet in the afternoon, especially after eating, the beetles slow down their activity.

    During its short life in 30-40 days, the June bug is actively flying. The May bug can fly up to 20 km per day in search of food, developing a speed of 8-11 km per hour.


    What do June bugs eat? The main source of food for an adult June bug is young shoots, leaves, flowers.

    The larvae of the June bug are even more voracious than adults. They cause the greatest harm to crops, as they eat the roots of many young plants.


    May beetle also serve as food for many animals and birds. Badgers, moles, hedgehogs, bats, rooks, starlings may eat June bugs.

    June Bug in flight


    Zoologists know 63 types of June bugs. We’ll describe the most common of them.

    Eastern June Bug

    Females of this species are significantly smaller than males: 20-29 mm long in males versus 10-15 mm in females. The Eastern June bug has a variable color, although in general brownish and red colors prevail. The Eastern June bug is quite numerous in Europe and Asia.

    Eastern June Bug

    Western June Bug

    The Western June bug is longer in size than the eastern relative, with a strongly convex body. They have almost the same size but differ in some habits and details of appearance. So the Western June bug appears 10 days later than the eastern one in the spring, it is more thermophilic, it likes to settle in the fields. The Western June bug lives in many European countries.

    Western June Bug

    Life Cycle and Reproduction

    The life cycle of the June bug lasts from three to five years and includes the following stages:

    • The stage of the egg, it lasts 30-40 days.
    • The pupa stage lasts 30-60 days.
    • In the larvae stage, beetles stay about 3-4 years.
    • And finally, in the stage of imago (adult), the beetle lives up to two months.

    The mating period occurs at the end of May. After mating the female buries itself in the ground, where she lays eggs (usually 20-30 eggs in one clutch), then mates again and does the laying again. The female of the May beetle manages to make 3-4 clutches during the period of her short adult life.

    June bug eggs

    This is how the June bug eggs look like. They are from 1.5 to 2.5 mm in diameter. The larvae hatch from them after 30-40 days. The larvae of the cockchafer have a thick curved body with three pairs of limbs and a large round head. 3-4 years the larva lives and winters in the ground, for the period of winter cold, burrowing to a depth of 1-1.5 meters and rising higher with the onset of spring.

    larvae of the cockchafer

    If the first year it feeds on hummus and grassroots, then in the second year it begins to eat the thicker roots of the plants, bringing the greatest harm to plants.

    Larvae pupation occurs after the third or fourth wintering. For this period, the larva digs deeper into the ground and turns into a pupa, being in a special chamber – the pupal cradle. The puppet phase lasts 30-45 days, at the end of this period, an adult June bug appear from the pupa.

    How to Get Rid of June Bugs?

    At all stages of its existence, the June bug is a dangerous pest for crops, the larvae eat the roots of plants, causing drying and death, adult cockchafer damage plants vegetation, eating leaves and shoots. In order to get rid of May beetles complex measures are needed, aimed both at destroying the larvae and adults bugs.

    To treat the grubs that cause lawn damage, you can apply an insecticide, like Sevin, to the lawn and then water the lawn to get the insecticide into the soil, or you can apply Bacillus thuringiensis or milky spore to the soil to kill the May bug larvae. Larvae nematodes can also be applied to the soil to kill May beetle grubs.

    Sevin or similar insecticides can also be applied to affected plants if the adult June bug is eating your plants. If you are looking for an organic method for how to kill June bugs, you can build a trap. Use a jar or a bucket and place a white light at the top of the container with an inch or two of vegetable oil at the bottom of the jar or bucket. The container should be open so that the May bug can fly in towards the light. They will fall into the oil below and be unable to fly away again.

    June Bugs

    How to Keep June Bugs Away?

    You can do the following steps for this:

    • Cultivate the land and foliage of fruit trees with onion peel extract.
    • Plant a white creeping clover on the garden plot, its roots accumulating nitrogen that can repel insects.
    • Build birdhouses: starlings, blackbirds, and other birds will be happy to eat June bugs in your garden.
    • Hedgehogs can also be your allies in the fight against these harmful insects. So, having found a hedgehogs hole in the area, do not rush to bury it, just as you should not scare hedgehogs from the garden.

    Interesting Facts

    • The most mysterious and surprising is their ability to fly, the fact is that according to the laws of aerodynamics June bugs should not fly. Nevertheless, beetles fly contrary to all aerodynamic laws. Perhaps in the future, zoologists and technicians will be able to explain how they can fly.
    • June bugs are extremely purposeful creatures, having set a goal, it will go to it no matter what.
    • In Anderson’s “Thumbelina” fairy tale, the May bug was one of the pretenders for Thumbelina’s heart.

    References and Further Reading

    • “Common Cockchafer”. Bug Life.
    • Marren, Peter; Mabey, Richard (2010). Bugs Britannica. Chatto & Windus. ISBN 978-0-7011-8180-2.
    • “7 things you never knew about the cockchafer”. Discover Wildlife. 8 April 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2016.
    • Barton, K.: Verfluchte Kreaturen: Lichtenbergs “Proben seltsamen Aberglaubens” und die Logik der Hexen- und Insektenverfolgung im “Malleus Maleficarum”, in Joost, U.; Neumann, A. (eds): Lichtenberg-Jahrbuch 2004, p. 11ff, Saarbrucken 2004 (SDV Saarlandische Druckerei und Verlag), ISBN 3-930843-87-0. In German.

    Author: Pavlo Chaika, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Poznavayka

    When writing this article, I tried to make it as interesting and useful as possible. I would be grateful for any feedback and constructive criticism in the form of comments to the article. You can also write your wish/question/suggestion to my mail pavelchaika1983@gmail.com or to Facebook.


    • Dear Pavlo, you have put together very useful detailed info and beautiful pictures. I am making study material for children about a compost ecology system and these creatures are its stable inhabitants. Thanks a lot.

    • Unfortunately, the name “June bug” isn’t used to describe Melolontha melolontha. They’re known as Cockchafers / Maybugs / Doodlebugs etc. but not “June bugs”. At least not in the English speaking part of Europe, that is.

      June bugs are what Americans call Cotinis sp. beetles and the beetle referred to as a ‘June bug’ in Europe is Amphimallon solstitiale or “Summer chafer”.