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The cockchafer


In Western Europe we have around 3,800 species of beetle. A number of these are particularly bothersome, such as the cockchafer (also known as the May bug, the Spang beetle or the Billy witch). This parasite in the genus Melolontha is matt black in colour with light (yellow) flecks.  Cockchafers are about 1 cm long and have feelers on their protruding snout. On its shell are longitudinal grooves.

Eating cockchafer

The beetles are generally active at night and eat angular bites out of the edges of leaves. The cockchafer cannot fly but it crawls and climbs very well: many metres a night. The larva is about 10-14 mm long in its final stage, dirty white to cream-coloured with a red-brown head. The body is often slightly curved (C-shaped).

Cockchafer larvae


  • Mostly active at night,
  • If they feel they’ve been spotted they stand stock still
  • Start eating from the edge of the leaf inwards
  • Larvae are found up to 10 cm deep in soil and feed on roots


Fighting chickenDealing with beetles is a real pain. A chemical pesticide often affects not just the beetle but also other, useful, insects. A biological solution to the larvae is possible with parasitic nematode worms. Other natural enemies of the cockchafer beetle include: various beetles, frogs/toads, and bantams. The most important enemies of the larvae include various moulds, nematodes, bacteria and again, chickens.

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