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What's That Bug? Cotinis nitida, the Green June Beetle

By Melody Rose (melodyJuly 26, 2014
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Gardeners often encounter unique and colorful insects in their gardens. The trick is to know which ones are friends and which ones are foes. This series of articles will help identify some of the most unusual ones and give you a peek into their lives.

Gardening picture

A number of beetles are known as 'June Bugs' and most of them get this designation for appearing in the month of June. Cotinis nitida is a large bronze and metallic green beetle that is often seen in June and July flying in low, lazy circles just a few inches above lawns or turf grass. They don't sting or bite and are not dangerous to humans, but they are not a 'nice bug'.

ImageThe adults are sometimes called 'Fig-eater Beetles' because they love the soft and easy to break skin of figs. They also like any soft fruit and can be quite destructive in peach orchards and berry patches. They use the small horn-like protrusion their foreheads to break the fruit's skin and then eat unsightly holes as they feed. Most of the time, folks can simply cut insect damage away from the fruit and use it, but these guys secrete a substance that permeates the fruit and makes the whole piece have a bad odor and taste. They're considered a minor pest in eastern North America and more so in the southern part of the U.S., even though they are pleasantly associated with summer, sweet tea and lazy afternoons in literature and lore. Those of us in the South consider them simply another part of summer. They make a bumbling drone as they fly similar to a bumblebee and generally appear when the summer has reached its peak. We do have a fondness for tradition here and they appear in poems, songs and stories throughout our reigon.

ImageThe grub or larval stage of the Cotinus nitida is considered a pest as well. The immature beetles are destructive to lawns and turf grass. These large white grubs do not actually eat the roots of the grass, but their burrowing habits undermine the root systems. They are easily identified because they do not use their legs to crawl. Instead, they turn on their backs and motivate with their tiny, useless legs in the air. They feed on decaying organic matter. If they become a destructive enough pest in your area Penn State recommends using Steinernema spp. and Heterorhabditis spp. as a non chemical means of control. These are insect-parasitic nematodes that infect the grubs and cause them to die. There is also a species of digger wasp that uses the grubs as food for their larvae, so let them go about their business if you see them working. There are chemical controls available as well, but as long as the insects are not causing extensive damage, I'd personally prefer for nature to take care of itself. 

ImageSome people may confuse these with another metallic green beetle...the dastardly Japanese Beetle, Popillia japonica. Japanese Beetles are far more destructive and are a non-native species. (Cotinis nitida is native to North America) It is easy to distinguish between the two. The Japanese Beetle is much smaller (about 1/2" long, 12.7mm) and has a series of white dots along the outside edges of its body. Cotinis nitida is a very large beetle (nearly 1", 90mm long) The image at left is a Japanese Beetle and it has a much different appearance than the June Beetle.

Cotinis nitida isn't usually present in enough numbers to be a serious threat to gardens or agriculture, however localized concentrations of the beetle might prove annoying and controls needed. I have them every summer and they can be seen flying their low, lazy circles above my yard. I have never felt it necessary to use any type of pest management on them though. They leave my apple trees alone and I've not noticed any damage to my grass. I have a "live and let live" philosophy and as long as they're doing no harm, I choose to do likewise.

 Grub image courtesy of Wikimedia commons

Sources used in this article:

Univeersity of Arkansas

Penn State University

North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences


  About Melody Rose  
Melody RoseI come from a long line of Kentuckians who love the Good Earth. I love to learn about every living thing, and love to share what I've learned. Photography is one of my passions, and all of the images in my articles are my own, except where credited.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
June bug annhelen 3 5 Aug 14, 2014 12:50 PM
The figeater beetle (Cotinis mutabilis) ibcalif 0 2 Jul 28, 2014 2:28 PM
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