May bugs and oil beetles

It’s always a sign of summer to me when working at night in my room there’s a clatter and enter the erratic May bug trying to navigate its blundering way back to the window to escape. They are great big things and are also known as cockchafers. I think the ones who visit us must be the common cockchafer, melolontha melolontha. They were once plentiful but as they are always hungry – the bugs themselves and their babies – their larvae they have been a real pest to farmers and gardeners. Unfortunately control went the other way and in some places they have completely disappeared. They can completely devastate crops, especially when there are the periodic mass flights and whole swarms of these beetles fall upon the fields. By the way the name comes from the common term for beetle – chafer, and the size of the creature!

This May bug arrived on our doorstep this morning; we gave it a drink and it wandered off and settled on the doormat.

It’s been an insect-y couple of days; out on a walk yesterday someone spotted an black oil beetle which is apparently quite rare, three species have already disappeared and the rest are under threat… and then lo and behold, half a mile further on , there was another! There are five varieties, the black, the violet, the short-necked, the rugged and the Mediterranean oil beetle. I think we saw just the ordinary black one.

They are called black oil beetles because their iridescent jet black carapace looks just like oil but also they actually secrete an oily substance which is the insect equivalent to blood if they are disturbed or interfered with, and it’s poisonous… it can cause skin irritation and because of this they are also called blister beetles because they can cause blisters. We didn’t touch the specimens we saw, just admired them and took pictures!


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