top of page

Attack of the Phyllophaga

by: Edgar Romero Gonzalez, City Sprouts South Manager + Assistant Educator

Pictured: A macro view of a June Bug; Photo credit: @mtietgen (Instagram)

I bet the title got your attention, huh?

No, we're not being invaded by space aliens or creatures from another dimension. Really, we have some freaking interesting organisms on this planet already! Hear me out, it'll all make sense in a minute. We're well into the month of June and I'm loving it. Sunny weather, cookouts, and walks in the park, right? Ah, but it's a whole different world once the sun goes down. This is when the Phyllophaga come out to invade our gardens and terrorize us by making creepy buzzing sounds in the dark while dive-bombing straight into any light source they see nearby. Really, I had one crash into my face while I was texting and sitting on my porch with the lights off, except for the glow from my cell phone! So what is a Phyllophaga!? I think by now you've all figured out that I'm referring to those little red-brown beetles commonly known as June bugs or May/June beetles. The name Phyllophaga is derived from the Greek words phyllon (leaf) and phagos (eater). Why are they named May/June beetles? It's pretty simple! It's the time of the year when the adult versions of this bug emerge from the soil to do their thing. They have a pretty interesting life-cycle too. After a hot date, the females will dig into the soil and deposit their eggs. Get this; they often do this near trees. After 3-4wks the eggs hatch and the babies (commonly known as "grubs") will then spend the next 1–4yrs (depending on their species) feeding on plant roots. When fully grown they emerge as adults, but can stay underground for about another year until the following spring. In the end they crawl out to the surface to find a hot date, mate, and lay eggs. The end.

Pictured: June bug with wings open for flight; Photo credit: @roland_rolle45 (Instagram)

So what's the big deal with this bug, and can it harm my garden? To humans, this bug is more annoying than harmless. However, if you're a plant then cancel X-mas! Recall what I said earlier, they spend the first 1-4 yrs of their life feeding on plant roots! We're not even going to talk about their appetite once they mature and emerge. So yes, they can definitely harm your grass and/or garden if left unchecked.

How to Keep this Bug in Check: Here are a few simple suggestions:

  • Go fishing! - No, really, grubs make great fishing bait. If you see a dead patch of grass in your yard, dig up some soil. You'll likely find a few little chubby grubs hanging out there. Put them in a small plastic container and hit the lake or river.

  • Introduce natural predators! - Yup, you guessed it! Lizards, snakes, birds, and frogs love to snack on June bugs. Putting a bird bath or feeder in your garden will attract birds (and maybe some squirrels too!). Creating some cool and dark places around your garden or lawn will attract lizards, snakes, and frogs. In either case, let mother nature do the work for you!

  • Wage biological warfare! - If you discover that you have a large infestation of this bug, you can use Bacillus thuringiensis (a soil dwelling bacteria commonly known as BT). Don't worry, this stuff is not toxic to humans or pets! It will, however, systematically eradicate a large number of undesirable garden pests. This stuff is pretty common so you can find it at most all local garden stores. Simply apply as directed.

Feliz June, everyone!

Pictured: June bug with rainbow coloring resting on leaves; Photo credit: @macro_roniandcheese (Instagram)


Questions about organic pest control?

bottom of page