Yesterday was another June bug Day!
Every year, our neighbor’s treeless lawn proves good for something: June bugs. Hundreds of dark blurs zoom around us in bright sun, just a foot or two above the grass. They fly too fast to ID or catch, but when they land, they’ll crawl on a finger and take a ride.
I’m guessing the ones who land to bulldoze through the grass (and ride a finger) are the females ready to burrow and lay eggs.
Have you seen them lately? Way bigger than the dreaded Japanese beetle, and way better: these scarab beetles are a native part of our foodweb.
And Green June Bugs don’t chew anything in your garden, or anything at all: they can only sip sap or slurp already-damaged fruit.
Despite “June,” the first emergence here is usually July—a sign of High Summer—and they do seem to favor sunny lawn.
Despite “bug,” they are beetles. During the grubs stage they’re blamed for turf damage, but maybe we can thank them for a reminder to grow less lawn and more natives.
And while Green June Bugs make ugly grubs, the grownups are gems. Polished gems. Not with high gloss, but a burnished glow: like a cabochon of jade. Along the edge of the wing covers runs a rubbing of bronze:
High gloss does describe the the underside, though: a bright, faceted emerald, heavy on the glitter.
Honestly, my first thought about a beetle’s undersides wasn’t jewelry, it was hardware. Specifically, the green, zinc-coated grounding screws for electrical work.
(And in a way, the beetle and screw both “go to ground.”)
Green June Beetles are the size of an olive: a fat, handsome, shiny green olive, which is what the scientific names mean. Cotinis comes from a Greek word for olive, and nitida = shiny, handsome (and sometimes plump!).
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Joanna Brichetto is a naturalist and writer in Nashville, the hackberry-tree capital of the world.
She writes about everyday marvels amid everyday habitat loss, and her essays have appeared in Creative Nonfiction, Brevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, City Creatures, The Fourth River and other journals.