Nature in Your Backyard: Green June Beetles!

I live near campus and enjoy my walks around the brick-lined grounds of NCSU when the weather isn’t painfully hot or rainy. Campus is my unofficial backyard. This day was no exception: a slight breeze, seemingly extra shade from the trees on campus, and buzzing from the ground…

Buzzing from the ground? It’s that sort of thing that makes an entomologist stop what they’re doing and quietly observe.

Male Cotinis nitida - green june beetle, held by Mary Jane EppsI looked down at the grassy area between two large trees along my walk to discover, what I thought at first, to be large green bees buzzing around the grass. Green bees… that wasn’t quite right – so I stood, mouth agape as I bent down to realize that every two feet or so were beautiful, jewel-like Scarab beetles lifting their tank-like bodies from the Earth and landing again; not pollinating or eating… but mating. I quickly went upstairs to my office to grab my officemate, Mary Jane Epps, our unofficial beetle devotee, and all I had to mention was “beetle behavior” and she was right out the door with me (she even left her keys behind).

Male green June Beetle - Cotinis nitida Raleigh, North Carolina NCSU CampusSo there we both stood – surrounded by what felt like a swarm of beautiful golden-green beetles. We observed a female near a hole in the soil with two males aggressively vying for her attention and eggs. We gained a new appreciation for their coloration; on their own the velvety metallic green is striking and distracting, whereas in the grass they fit right in. Then a female was being attacked by ants as she attempted to lay eggs under the turf; MJ couldn’t stand it and moved her to a place that wasn’t atop an ant nest. You can see where our loyalties are.

While their larvae are the ones that do the most damage by eating the roots of turf grass, the adults are said to feed on ripened figs and peaches (what a lovely summer treat!). Green June Beetles, or Cotinis nitida,┬átypically emerge in June or July (hence the name “June beetles”) but maybe we will expect them a little later this year – it’s fully the first week of August and they seem to be perfectly content enjoying a later emergence in our strangely cool North Carolina summer.

So the next time you are walking by some grass, listen first – look around you; you’ll never know when you will stumble upon a little bit of nature in your backyard.

Two males fighting for a female cotinis nitida - green june beetle

Two males compete for a female Green June Beetle on the NCSU campus

By |2016-11-22T13:47:20-05:00August 8th, 2013|

About the Author:

Lea Shell
Lea Shell is an entomologist and educator who devotes her time convincing others just how wonderfully important insects and microbes are to our lives. She enjoys playing with slime mold, ants, GPS units, climate loggers and interviewing scientists about their middle school experiences.

One Comment

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    Kenneth Setzer August 8, 2013 at 10:07 am - Reply

    Nice report! I’ve had a couple of these in my yard here in Miami. Very beautiful beetles. As soon as I released one, I remember how it burrowed straight into the ground.

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