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Billy witches

June bug, Melolontha melolontha, male

Melolontha melolontha – Male

I’ve not posted for a while. Working freelance has kept me busy and much of my spare time has been spent either keying out specimens, uploading insect and wildlife records, writing reports or more enjoyably attending various insect workshops. At the last one, on Caribidae (Ground beetles) I got chatting to a young lady at the microscope opposite me. Ashleigh works in Edinburgh as a curatorial assistant (Entomology) for National Museums, Scotland and I mentioned that sometimes flying beetles get attracted to my moth-trap. Not quite so welcome are the big, up to 30mm long ‘Spang Beetles’ or ‘Billy Witches’ more commonly known as the Common Cockchafer Melolontha melolontha.

If left unattended for any length of time these little bombers can pretty much smash the bejesus out of all and sundry inside the trap. Anyway she said it might just be be worth checking these a little more carefully as there is a possibility I might attract the much rarer Forest Cockchafer M. hippocastani. So in future I’ll pay a little more attention before I release them.

Later she very kindly sent me some information (via Twitter) on how to separate these two very similar looking species. If any fellow moth-trappers are interested in learning more then get in touch and I’ll happily pass on the info. But be warned this does mean examining their nether regions, the pygidium.

It’s not a great photo I know but if you count the leaves on the antenna you will see there are seven, which makes this a male, a female would have six.

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