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Cockchafer or May Bug Melolontha melolontha

All Scarab Beetles have two common factors: they are rather large and bulgy beetles and they all have a kind of fan at the end of their antennae. This fan exists of at least three parts that can be folded together. With the Cockchafer this is also the way to tell the males and females apart: females have a fan built up of six parts, while the male's fan has seven parts. The larvae of some Scarab Beetles are called rookworms

Cockchafers are some 25 to 30 millimeters in length, but look bigger, because of their robust shape. Once adult May Bugs are short lived: some three weeks only, males even shorter. They hardly eat at all, but some may nibble on leaves, especially oak leaves. Their main activity is mating. After mating the females digs herself under the soil, usually just a few centimeters. There she deposits her eggs. She produces only some 20 eggs. The eggs hatch after some 6 to 7 weeks. The rookworms eat debris at first, until they are big enough to eat roots. They are attracted to the roots of all kinds of plants: grasses, vegetables, flowers. Bigger rookworms bite off pieces of the root and then eat these pieces. These may be big chunks, causing the plant to be cut off of its roots in the end. Those plants die quickly. Rookworms are capable of causing huge damage in lawns and agriculture, especially when there are a lot of them. Rookworms grow very slowly and mould from time to time. Their life underground lasts 3 or 4 years. When they are full grown they dig a tunnel into the soil. Such a tunnel may be up to 90 centimeters deep! At the end of the tunnel a chamber is built. In it the rookworm pupates. This takes only some 6 to 7 weeks and takes place in fall. The last winter is spent in the chamber being an adult beetle. From the end of April to the beginning of June the adults appear. Usually they appear very synchronously in the beginning of May, hence the sometimes huge numbers.

In the past there were far more May Bugs then at present. In the middle of the last century pesticides were used to kill the May Bug. In some parts of Europe they animal was near extinction. After the ban on many of these pesticides, the May Bug recovered. But untill today it never appears in the huge numbers it used to appear in. Nowadays nematodes are the main way of killing the rookworms. Nematodes are very small parasitic worms. They live inside a rookworm, killing it in the end. Because it takes the May Bug 3 to 4 years to become adult, the numbers of adults seen vary over the years. A year in which the animal is scarce may be followed by a year of abundancy.

The Cockchafer is also known as the May Bug, Maybeetle, Mitchamador, Billy Witch or Spang Beetle.