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Battling June bugs

May 12, 2011
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere , Marshall Independent

As I was walking out of the barn, I was nearly attacked by a swarm of June bugs zinging and zanging around the yard.

They always seem to fly about willy nilly, only to make a pest out of themselves and drive our new border collie crazy. I still don't understand why they call them June bugs or beetles when they usually are out in May. Either way, summer is the time when people begin to notice large bright green beetles in their yard, called June Bugs or Green June Beetles. Adult and larval feeding on economic crops causes some financial loss; however, the grubs tunneling for feed and the adults' burrowing into the soil each night cause more serious destruction. The tunneling uproots young plants. The many exit holes of the adults and larvae resemble ant hills and mar lawns and golf course greens.


The Green June beetle is 15 to 22 mm long with dull, metallic green wings. Its head, legs, and underside are shiny green, and its sides are brownish yellow. The green June beetle occurs in the eastern United States westward to Kansas and Texas. The grubs feed on decaying organic matter in the thatch and root zone of many grasses, as well as on the underground portions of other plants such as sweet potatoes and carrots.

Only one year is required for these beetles to complete their life cycle. They overwinter as grubs that may become active on warm winter days. They increase their activity in the spring, and in June pupate in earthen cells several centimeters underground. The pupal stage lasts about 18 days; adults appear in July and August.

In mid-summer, adults lay eggs underground in earthen balls. Each female lays 60 to 75 eggs over a span of about two weeks. When the egg is first laid, it is pearly white and elliptical (1.5 mm by 2.1 mm). It gradually becomes more spherical as the larva inside develops. About 18 days after the eggs are laid, they hatch into small, white grubs. The newly hatched larva is 8 mm long and grows to a length of about 40 mm. Whitish with a brownish-black head, the grub has conspicuous brown spiracles along the sides of its body. The larvae molt twice before winter. The third larval stage lasts nearly nine months, after which pupation occurs. At night, the larvae may be found on the ground crawling on their backs. This curious form of locomotion is peculiar to the green June beetle.The brown pupa, approximately the same shape as the adult, becomes metallic green just before the adult emerges. It is about 15 mm long and 15 mm wide.

Controlling June Bugs

The best time to control Green June Beetles is mid-August until early September; by mid-September the best time for control is already past. As in all chemical pest control operations, caution is necessary. Heed the pesticide label and follow instructions closely. After application of insecticides to the lawn keep people and pets off of the area for the number of hours specified on the label. Never clean sprayers or dump pesticides into sewers, in or near storm drains, streams, rivers, lakes, or ponds.

The grubs sometimes attack vegetables and other garden plants, e.g. lettuce, raspberry, strawberry and young ornamental trees. Injury to the roots and rootstock causes small saplings and tender tap-rooted plants like lettuce to wilt suddenly or to show stunted growth and a tendency to shed leaves prematurely.

Plants growing in rows are usually attacked in succession as the grubs move along from one plant to the next. Chafer grubs feed below ground for three to four years before changing into adult beetles.

If you have ever experienced having racoons or skunks out on your yard, digging it up, then you may want to look a little bit closer. They are digging for the June bug grubs or larvae. Usually, once the grub canteen runs out, the racoons and skunks will leave as well.

For more information on gardening, you can reach me at



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