Meet the Beetles

Of the many "June bugs/beetles" aka scarabs in California, this ten-lined June beetle (Polyphylla decemlineata) is one of my favorites. At this time of year, I keep an eye out for the ones that have not been eaten by other creatures and are starting to expire. They seem to be like battery-operated toys and I frequently find perfect dead specimens on the ground around my house. This one was running out of juice and didn't fly away so I put it in a shallow dish with some greenery and it died within 24 hours of this photo. It put on this wonderful display before sloughing off its mortal coil...

"June bug" is a common name that refers to a number of beetles that are all at at their most active around June. This one is a Cotinis mutabilis, also called green fruit beetle, fig beetle, fig eater, and probably a few more different common names in Spanish and other languages of the Southwest. Rain beetles (genus Pleocoma), ten-lined June beetles (Polyphylla decemlineata), and many others are known in different, varied regions as "June bugs." Most seem to be scarab beetles (a family of some 30,000 species). Common names are evocative and often have great stories, but they can also be confusing!

These jumbo beetles are about the same size as the ten-lined June beetle but are even more awkward at flying. Many people find them annoying or frightening, but they are harmless and always make me laugh, bumbling through the air and gorging themselves on figs that the squirrels and birds have rejected. They are often confused with the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) but these are native to the Southwest and are not classified as an agricultural pest (as the invasive Japanese beetles are) because they prefer to eat fallen fruit. Just this morning I found an expired fig eater on the driveway... another perfect, beautiful specimen for my collection.

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