Yup, that’s their real name.
Looking for all the world like a miniature watermelon with legs these striped beetles can frequently be found in our yards from May to July.
At just over an inch in length and up to half of an inch in width they can be quite intimidating.
Often they will hiss alarmingly when touched but despite their size and hissing they are quite harmless and if you have young children in the house they can be quite entertaining.
The June bug is a native of the North West and spends almost all of its 3 to 4 year life as a grub living in the soil. Grubs typically feed on the roots of evergreens but are also known to feed on garden and ornamental plants. Adults eat the needles of pine and fir trees but rarely do any visible damage. They seldom cause significant damage in residential settings but they have been known to kill smaller trees and saplings. Christmas tree farms and replanted forests can be particularly vulnerable.
Usually, by the time we see them the beetles are adults. The adults only live about two weeks during which they mate, lay eggs and die.
The stripped shell covers a pair of large, transparent, amber tinted wings which help in finding mates and fertile places to lay eggs.
Female June bugs give off perfume like chemicals called pheromones to attract males. You can easily distinguish the males from the females by their exaggerated antenna which are especially sensitive to the pheromones.
Cruising along with their noses to the wind these large beetles are frequently mistaken for small birds.
When they are not in pursuit of a mate they use light to navigate. This kind of navigation involves fixing the sun in their field of vision and keeping it in the same place as they fly, producing a straight flight path.
Lights near the ground at night confuse them because when they lock them in their field of view they end up flying in a circle which eventually spirals down to the light source. This is why many other insects appear to be attracted to lights and why June bugs are frequently found on porches and door and window screens.
June bugs do not bite but they do squeak or hiss when they feel threatened. The sound is produced by rubbing their abdomen against the shell that protects the wings. Hissing will discourage most predators including adult humans but will fascinate and entertain most six year olds for hours. ■