Do June Bugs Bite?
We know June bugs are lousy fliers, but do they bite? We asked an expert.
Named for the month when they mate, you’ll usually find June bugs (aka June beetles) flittering around porch lights, rebounding off window panes and burrowing into your lawn.
We asked Scott Green, a board-certified entomologist with Ehrlich Pest Control, to give us the lowdown on these warm-weather insects.
What Is a June Bug?
Green says June bugs are actually beetles belonging to the family Scarabaeidae and order Coleoptera. “They’re related to Scarab beetles and have around 1,100 related beetles in this order,” he says.
Native to North America, June bugs are commonly found in the Northern Hemisphere, mostly on the East Coast and the South. Measuring between 1/2- and one-inch long, June bugs come in colors from black to brown to copper to metallic emerald green. Typically they have six legs, two sets of wings and oval-shaped bodies with segmented antennae that fan out at the ends.
“June bugs are nocturnal and attracted to lights,” Green says. “You might see them flying around your landscape lighting at night, but are not considered strong fliers.”
As a species, they’ve demonstrated impressive staying power, surviving about 250 million years — that’s longer than dinosaurs!
Basic life stages of a June bug
- Egg: Laid in the soil, usually in grassy areas; eggs hatch within 30 days.
- Larva: “June bug larvae (or white grubs) live around three years in the soil before pupating and emerging as adults,” Green says.
- Pupa: In spring and early summer, white grubs pupate three to six inches deep in the soil, emerging into adults in about three weeks.
- Adult: Green notes adult June bugs live around one year, emerging in the summer months at night and disappearing into the ground in early winter. “They re-emerge in late spring to lay eggs and feed again,” he says.
The white grubs are an important food source for birds, moles, skunks and raccoons. However, they can also be problematic, destroying root structures, lawns, grasses and low-lying plants like strawberries. In turn, foraging animals that feed on larvae can do considerable damage to your backyard and garden.
Do June Bugs Bite?
No. June bugs don’t bite humans or pets, so they’re safe to handle and fascinating to observe up close. Strictly vegetarian, June bugs prefer to munch on leafy plants such as corn, raspberries, oak leaves and flowers.
How To Get Rid of June Bugs
Once fully mature and above ground, June bugs are notorious leaf-eaters, wreaking havoc on all sorts of plants, shrubs and grasses.
Here are the signs June bugs may have damaged a plant’s roots:
- Thin, yellow, or random and irregular brown patches on your lawn;
- Wilting foliage;
- Grass that feels spongy and pulls up easily;
- Turf that rolls up like a carpet;
- Nocturnal wildlife makes a terrible mess of your lawn.
Before you set out to eliminate June bugs, Green says be sure they’re the ones causing the problem. One way to tell: Dig up a grub and examine it closely to determine if it’s a June bug or a similar-looking pest, like a Japanese beetle. You’ll know a June bug grub by its white color, C-shaped body, three sets of legs, orange-colored head and wormlike appearance.
Once you’ve determined you do have a June bug problem, treat the larvae in the soil with pesticides labeled for application in grasses and to control beetle larvae. “Many products are not intended for use in garden settings where edible plants are grown,” says Green.
There are several DIY ways to control June bugs in your yard:
- Upkeep: “A healthy lawn is the greatest protection against damage from June bug grubs,” says Green. Areas damaged by grubs should be overseeded in the fall to prevent encroachment of weeds in the spring.
- Don’t overwater: “Overwatering (shallow, frequent sprinkling) predisposes turf to diseases, retards deep root growth and increases lawn susceptibility to stress,” says Green. He recommends lawns be irrigated deeply no more than twice a week.
- Fertilize: “Appropriate fertilization encourages a dense, thick lawn that allows grass to tolerate some insect feeding,” Green says.
- Mow frequently: Cut your turf to the height appropriate for the type of grass you have to minimize the depletion of food reserves.
- Aerate: Lawns also benefit from aeration. “To increase water penetration and reduce soil compaction, periodically remove soil plugs using hollow tines,” he says.
If you keep your lawn healthy, Green says, you shouldn’t need pesticides to control June bugs. Applying pesticides risks killing non-targeted species and beneficial insects. Green suggests contacting your nearest university extension office to inquire about treatment options and how to proceed safely.
“If required, pesticide applications are most safely performed by professionals who are licensed for this type of pest management in your area,” Green says. “Care and attention must be taken to avoid run-off of pesticides from lawns, yards and foundations into storm drains, because they lead directly into natural bodies of water.”