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July 12, 2024

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    I’ve encountered countless insects in my years of fieldwork, but June bugs always stand out. These aren’t just one species, but a group of over 200 beetle varieties in North America that emerge in late spring and early summer across North America.

    Don’t let their small size fool you – June bugs can be a real headache for gardeners and homeowners. The adults devour leaves, while their grubs wreak havoc underground on plant roots.

    If you’ve been noticing these pests and wondering how to deal with them, you’re in the right place. I’ve seen it all when it comes to June bugs, and I’m here to share my knowledge on identifying and controlling these persistent beetles.

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    What Are June Bugs?

    So we have established that June bugs have different names and different species, but what exactly are June bugs? The term June bug primarily refers to the genus of beetles called Phyllophaga, from the family Scarabaeidae. The genus name translates to ‘leaf eater’ in English and refers to the destructive feeding habits of this pest.

    Thankfully, this pest is not very smart, and this is demonstrated by their clumsy flying and status as a ‘windshield bug,’ meaning they often fly into windshields and can be heard bumping into window panes.

    June bugs have a rare and long life span of 3 years even though they only exist as above-ground adults in the last year of life. Adults emerge from the soil in May or early June and quickly mate where the female goes back underground to lay her eggs. Once grubs hatch, the pests spend 2 years under the soil living on plant roots and the cycle repeats itself.

    June bug grubs will overwinter in the soil for 2 years before emerging as adults after a few stages of instar development underground. So not only do you have to worry about adults destroying your plants, you have to worry about the grubs doing the same thing underground.

    Read also: Black Bugs Around Windows: What Are They?

    Are June Bugs Dangerous?

    June bugs are not the slightest bit dangerous to humans or pets. There are no poisons or diseases you have to worry about, most won’t even bite or pinch if handled.

    June bugs are highly dangerous regarding lawns and gardens. A June bug population needs lots of foliage for eat, so this is bad news to plants both above-ground and underground.

    In fact, grubs tend to cause the most damage by volume simply because many homeowners forget to treat the soil. Therefore, treating for June bugs requires methods that address the adults and especially the grubs in the soil.

    June bugs are also a tasty treat to many animals because they are clumsy and make for easy prey. This means that several other types of pests or wild animals can be attracted to your yard due to the June bugs being present. Raccoons and skunks will dig up gardens and loose soil to search for grubs; this spells bad news for your trash cans in the yard as well.

    So it’s not so much the dangers June bugs can cause to humans. It’s the dangers and destruction that their presence alone brings.

    How Do I Identify a June Bug?

    You probably see June bugs every spring and fall and pay no attention to them. This is understandable because apart from the Japanese beetle, we never really pay much attention to beetles.

    Adult June bugs come in many different colors and sizes. But typically the adults will be either reddish-brown or even black. But there are also green, white, and black striped, and other color varieties for May/June beetles as well (more on this below). The adults are about ½ inch long and will both fly and crawl.

    Grubs can be easily identified due to their white-color, c-shaped body with three sets of legs, orange-colored head, and wormlike appearance. Sometimes you can even see grubs crawling out of the ground at night in search of more food. Grubs can also crawl on their backs, which is creepy, but an easy way to identify June bug grubs.

    Adult June bugs have long legs, and the reddish-brown type can even be mistaken for a cockroach if viewed from a distance. You can see them clinging to window screens, and the males will spend most of their time flying in the air.

    Have you ever seen a large flying bug dive-bombing through the air during the summer? It’s likely not a wasp or a hornet. Chances are this is a male June beetle. Males will exhibit this behavior as a mating call to attract females during mating season.

    What Are June Bugs Commonly Mistaken For?

    June bugs, May bugs, summer beetles, green beetles, etc. These are some of the many different names that are used for the numerous species of beetles categorized as June bugs. Even the Japanese beetle falls under the category of June bug/beetle, so it’s really just a name for grouping in many beetles.

    June bugs are beetles, so it’s not surprising they’re similar in appearance to dozens of other beetles. If you are trying to figure out what’s a June bug vs. another type of beetle, the following comparisons will dispel the common confusion for you.

    Bark beetles (family Scolytidae) look amazingly similar to June bugs. They have the same general shape and coloration. What gives them away is their size. Bark beetles are about a quarter the size of June bugs, only 1/8″ compared to 1/2″ or more for June bugs.

    Despite their diminutive size, bark beetles have caused enormous amounts of damage to forests in the western United States, ravaging over 85,000 square miles of forest. It’s an area roughly equivalent to the state of Utah. They did that damage in only 17 years, from 2000 to 2017.

    June bugs attack grass and crops but bark beetles attack the bark of trees, leaving dead and dying trees in their wake. When the affected areas are seen from the air, there are only a few splotches of green left in a spreading blanket of brown.

    Cigarette beetles (Lasioderma serricorne) also mimic the June bug’s appearance. They’re oval in shape, with approximately the same coloration, although with a bit of a greenish sheen to them.

    However, like the bark beetles, they’re only about 1/8″ long. They’re a stored product pest rather than a grass or bark pest though. They’re especially fond of any form of dried tobacco – leaves, cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco – hence the name.

    Reminding us that they are in the family Scarabaeidae, some cigarette beetles were found in dried resin in the tomb of Egyptian King Tutankhamun.

    Drugstore beetles (Stegobium paniceum), known in Great Britain as biscuit beetles, are about the same size as cigarette beetles but otherwise look like June bugs. They’re also a stored product pest, infesting grains and cereals for the most part.

    Their larvae share the same C-shape as June bug larvae and can be mistaken for them if not for the difference in size.

    Doodlebugs, also known as roly-poly bugs, are shy, retiring bugs that roll into a ball when they’re disturbed. In that defensive posture, they don’t resemble June bugs at all, but when they’re crawling across the ground, they can be mistaken for them.

    Their size, depending on the variety, can be nearly the same as a June bug but their coloration is grayer and less brown. They’re also a smooth, racetrack shape, whereas June bugs are smaller at the head than the tail.

    They live in moist soil and can often be found eating the same plants that June bugs eat, so it’s easy to mistake one for the other.

    What Attracts June Bugs To Your Yard?

    June bugs as grubs thrive in moist soil, so if you live in a region with ample rainfall or, you have lots of plants and ornamentals in your yard, the grubs will have all of their needs met.

    Adult June bugs are attracted to light and most species are partly nocturnal, which means you can see them flying and crashing into things in the early evening hours. To check and see if you have adult June bugs in your yard, all you need to do is walk outside after sunset and look at the porch lights. Chances are you will see them flying near it, since they are attracted to outdoor lights.

    The green June beetle is attracted to fruits and vegetables more so than the reddish-brown variety. This is bad news for gardeners who will have to take special care to treat edibles with safe pesticides to avoid contaminating fruits or vegetables.

    Finally, the foliage of all varieties (leaves, shrubs, flowers) in your yard is what feeds both the adults and the grubs underground feeding on the roots. There is really no way to avoid or prevent the beetles from scouting your yard, but both soil and treatments for leaves can actively kill June bugs all year long.

    What Are June Bugs Good For?

    While June bugs are often seen as pests, they do play important roles in our ecosystem. As a pest control expert, I’ve come to appreciate the balance of nature, even when dealing with insects that can cause problems for homeowners and gardeners. Here are some positive aspects of June bugs:

    1. Soil aeration: As grubs, June bugs burrow through the soil, which helps to aerate it. This process can improve soil structure and water penetration, benefiting plant roots.
    2. Nutrient cycling: When June bugs die, their bodies decompose, returning nutrients to the soil. This natural process contributes to soil fertility.
    3. Food source for wildlife: Many animals feed on June bugs and their grubs, including birds, small mammals, and other insects. They’re an important part of the food chain.
    4. Pollination: Adult June bugs, while not as efficient as bees, do contribute to pollination when they feed on flowers.
    5. Ecological indicators: The presence or absence of June bugs can indicate the health of an ecosystem, as they’re sensitive to changes in their environment.
    6. Organic matter decomposition: June bug grubs help break down organic matter in the soil, which is crucial for nutrient cycling and soil health.

    While it’s important to control June bug populations when they become destructive, it’s also worth remembering that these insects have a place in our ecosystem. As with many aspects of pest control, the goal is often to manage populations rather than eliminate them entirely.

    What Is The Best Method To Get Rid Of June Bugs?

    As mentioned, you will find that the June bug grub is the most destructive life stage of all varieties of June bugs. The best preventative measure to take against grubs is to try and avoid over-watering your yard and to limit the use of fertilizer as well. The more moisture and thriving plants that you have, the more adult June bugs you will attract to your yard.

    Pesticides can easily kill the adults, but June bugs are a pest that needs to be attacked at the grub stage. It is important to treat for June bug grubs during the spring or summer. Waiting until fall or winter may be too late because once the grubs grow larger, they are more difficult to treat.

    Natural Remedies

    When it comes to natural treatments for this pest, you will not have much luck in killing them. Organic repellents will only deter flying adults for a brief amount of time. Natural remedies do next to nothing for underground grubs.

    Chances are that if you see adults in your yard, the grubs are probably eating plants underneath the soil. To confirm that you have June bug grubs, you can dig a one-foot deep hole around plants where you see adult June bugs. If you find grubs in multiple places, you have your answer.

    It is difficult to use natural products for a pest that can be spread out across the entire yard. Furthermore, grubs live beneath the soil, so this complicates matters even more.

    There are some that recommend burning turf and even trees as a method for getting rid of Japanese beetles and June bugs, but this is undesirable for many homeowners and just an absurd amount of work.

    But there are two promising natural options when it comes to June bug grubs.

    Bacillus thuringiensis is a bacteria that is generally safe to both humans and pets works by targeting the digestive tract of June bug grubs that are sensitive to the toxins released by the bacteria.

    Once the grubs ingest or absorb the Bt, the bacteria eats away the lining of the intestines and stomach, which causes infection and starvation in a matter of days.

    Using Bt can be highly beneficial for killing June bug grubs since the bacteria can be spread across the entire yard.  Bt is usually sold as granules when used to kill mosquito larvae, but a concentrate containing Bt can be used on a hose sprayer to saturate the soil to treat June bug grubs.

    I usually use a product called Thuricide by Bonide. This 8oz. concentrate contains active Bt bacteria in a liquid formulation. The best way to use the product is to spray your yard with a hose sprayer for maximum coverage area and less work on your part.

    Pour the entire bottle into the sprayer reservoir and try and go over the soil in your yard until the product is depleted. Bt will kill the June bug grubs in a few days or up to a week from the time the bacteria hits the soil. Be sure to irrigate the soil every day to keep the Bt active.

    Much like Bt, beneficial nematodes are another living organism that directly targets underground grubs. Beneficial nematodes are a form of microscopic roundworm that can be spread into moist soil by the thousands to kill an entire colony of June bug grubs.

    You may have better results with beneficial nematodes over Bt since nematodes are much more relentless in actively hunting down grubs. Nematodes will find a grub and enter its system where it secretes a bacteria that kills the grub within days. The nematodes then eat the decaying corpse of the grub.

    It is important to purchase beneficial nematodes from a reputable company that provides freshness and live specimens. Nature’s Good Guys triple blend formulation is ideal since freshness is guaranteed and the product is 100% beneficial nematodes. This product covers up to 12,000 square feet with 50 million live nematodes.

    Just like with Bt, beneficial nematodes can be spread with a hose sprayer, and make sure you cover all of the soil in your yard. Irrigate the lawn every day to provide the nematodes with moisture.

    Both Bt and beneficial nematodes need moisture, which is also what helps June bug grubs to thrive as well. Additionally, these natural remedies may only work well when grubs are small, and it is hard to know if this is the first or second year of the grub life cycle.

    For June bugs, pesticides are the primary recommended course of action.

    Are There Any Effective Pesticides That Can Be Used On June Bugs?

    When it comes to pesticides, it is important to find out what works best for June bug adults and grubs.

    Bifenthrin or imidacloprid works best for killing adult June bugs, and carbaryl is the best pesticide for killing the grubs. These insecticides all work to attack the central nervous system of the beetles in different ways.

    Bifenthrin and imidacloprid work best during the hot summer months, while carbaryl is typically formulated as a granular application to absorb through the soil and kill the grubs both during summer and in the colder parts of the year.

    When killing adults, it is important to use a pesticide that works well at attacking the beetles and killing them but that is also systemic, meaning the insecticide will also kill pesticide-resistant insects.

    For this, I recommend using imidacloprid. This chemical will attack the nervous system of adult June bugs and kill them within minutes of contact.

    If using this product as a spray for adult June bugs, mix 0.6 ounces to one-gallon water (a one-gallon sprayer is best). Spray adults as you find them. Be careful not to spray the pollen tips of flowers to avoid harming bees.

    This product has a residual effect for up to 39 days, therefore, be sure to reapply more formula every 6 weeks to keep plants coated with the chemical throughout the June bug season.

    For June bug Grubs, you can use the previously mentioned product as a soil application, but granules are the best method of pesticide delivery for underground grubs.

    For this, carbaryl is a broad-range pesticide that is also a bit safer overall when compared to imidacloprid. Sevin Lawn Insect Granules is a great product since the Sevin company is one of the pioneers of developing carbaryl as an insecticide.

    Sevin granules provide coverage of up to 20,000 square feet and work by releasing the chemical into the soil when activated with water. June bug grubs will have no choice but to crawl through the poison if you spread the granules throughout the yard.

    If you do not live in an area that sees regular rainfall, be sure to irrigate the soil much since the granules need moisture to maintain efficiency.

    Granules work well to kill grubs, but not all granules are ideal for yards with pets and small children.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What are the different species of June bugs?

    The term “June bug” encompasses over 200 species of beetles in North America, primarily from the genus Phyllophaga. Common species include the green June beetle (Cotinis nitida), the European chafer (Rhizotrogus majalis), and the ten-lined June beetle (Polyphylla decemlineata).

    Other species fall under the Melolonthinae subfamily, such as various Phyllophaga species. These beetles come in different colors and sizes, ranging from reddish-brown to green, and even black-striped varieties, each adapted to specific regions and habitats across the continent.

    What is the difference between June bugs and Japanese Beetles?

    While Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) are often grouped under the June bug umbrella, they have distinct characteristics. Japanese beetles are smaller, typically about 3/8 inch long, with a metallic green body and copper-colored wing covers.

    They also have white tufts of hair along their sides. In contrast, most June bugs are larger, around 1/2 to 1 inch long, and are usually brown or black. Japanese beetles are also more aggressive feeders, causing more visible leaf damage, and are considered a more serious agricultural and garden pest. Unlike many June bug species, Japanese beetles are an invasive species in North America, first detected in 1916.

    How long does a June bug live?

    The lifespan of a June bug is surprisingly long for an insect, typically lasting about three years in total. However, most of this time is spent underground as a grub. June bugs spend about two years as grubs in the soil, feeding on plant roots and organic matter.

    They then pupate and emerge as adults in the late spring or early summer of their third year. The adult stage is relatively short, usually lasting only a few weeks to a couple of months. During this brief period, adults mate, lay eggs, and then die, completing their life cycle.

    What happens if a June bug bites you?

    June bugs are not known for biting humans. Their mouthparts are adapted for chewing plant material, not for piercing skin. In rare instances where a June bug might pinch a person’s skin, it would likely be accidental and cause minimal discomfort, similar to a light pinch.

    These insects do not carry diseases that affect humans, and they don’t have stingers. If you experience what you think is a June bug bite, it’s more likely to be from another insect. In the unlikely event of skin irritation after handling a June bug, it’s probably due to contact with the insect’s legs or body rather than a bite.

    Are June bugs damaging?

    Yes, June bugs can be quite damaging, particularly to lawns, gardens, and agricultural crops. The damage occurs in two stages of their life cycle. As grubs, they feed on the roots of grass and other plants, which can lead to brown patches in lawns and the death of young plants. This underground damage can be extensive and often goes unnoticed until it’s severe.

    Adult June bugs feed on the foliage of trees, shrubs, and other plants, causing ragged edges on leaves and sometimes complete defoliation. In large numbers, they can significantly impact ornamental plants and crops. Additionally, their presence can attract other pests like skunks and raccoons, which dig up lawns in search of the grubs, causing further damage.

    Final Thoughts

    June bugs or May/June beetles is a term that covers a wide selection of beetles. June bugs should be eliminated from yards and gardens if plants and shrubbery are important to homeowners. The bugs are not dangerous to humans, but attract other pests and nuisance animals to the area in addition to making a daily buffet of plants and ornamentals.

    June bug grubs are the most destructive life cycle of this pest, and soil treatments should be applied annually to destroy the infestations and prevent new June bug colonies from forming.

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    Reviewed for accuracy, cost data, industry best practices, and expert advice by Coty Perry.
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    Ed Spicer

    Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management.

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    Coty Perry

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    Coty Perry is a lawn and garden writer for Today’s Homeowner. He focuses on providing homeowners with actionable tips that relate to the “Average Joe” who is looking to achieve a healthier and greener lawn. When he isn’t writing he can almost always be found coaching youth football or on some trail in Pennsylvania in search of the next greatest fishing hole.

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