June Bug Day, Upside-Down

Today was a different kind of June Bug Day: an upside-down kind.
Instead of glossy, green grownups flying over grass, these June beetles are weird, white grubs crawling over streets.
But the weirdest thing is how they crawl. Despite having six serviceable little legs, these larvae travel on their backs, upside down.

“Crawl” is too weak a word. Squoonch is better. The grubs squoonch, undulate, and wriggle forward while their feet point at the sky.
The sky, meanwhile, is raining, which is why these teenagers leave their underground homes to squoonch somewhere less wet. 

How do they do it?
With “ambulatory bristles.”
Isn’t that a wonderful phrase?
Stiff hairs on the outside, plus strong muscles on the inside get the grubs where they wish to go. 

But why do they do it?
Why not walk on . . . ambulatory legs?
No other grubs choose bristles over feet. 

Please click the Play symbol to watch 5 seconds of Squoonching:

Let me make it clear that these belly-up creatures are an immature stage of the same gorgeous green June Beetles I showed a few weeks ago (link here).

With luck, the larvae will overwinter, pupate, and emerge to take their turn flying (and mating) above sunny yards next summer. 

I watched dozens of grubs crossing roads and sidewalks at 7am. But on later walks, I saw none. I don’t know if they prefer to “migrate” in the morning, or if the timing depends on how waterlogged the soil.

Let me know if you’ve seen them, and where and when? 

Meanwhile, more rain in Nashville’s forecast means we get more chances to look for a good Grub Crawl.

“June bugs are bustin’ out all over!
All over the sidewalks and the street . . .”

(Apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein)


Green June Beetle / Cotinis nitida

June Bug Day” at SidewalkNature.com

North Carolina State University “June Beetle Time

The Bug Lady “Green June Beetle (Family Scarabaeidae)”

BugGuide “Species Cotinis nitida / Green June Beetle

June is Bustin’ Out All Over,” from Carousel.


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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 NonfictionBrevity, Fourth Genre, Hippocampus, The Hopper, Flyway, The Common, Stonecrop Review, The Fourth River and other journals.

2 thoughts on “June Bug Day, Upside-Down

  1. Love it! So odd! I’ve never seen them above ground but have plenty of times underground while gardening. It seems many grubs look similar, whitish, oblong….or I see lots of june bug grubs. How can you tell a june bug grub from any other?

    1. I can’t tell one species from another unless I see it walking upside-down! I’ve read that to ID beetle larvae takes a lot of magnification and trouble, so I’m content with just calling everyone I accidentally dig up a White “C” grub.

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