Melolontha melolontha (Linnaeus, 1758)


Common throughout southern England and Wales becoming less so in the north and southern Scotland. There is usually a period of a year or two when they are found in small numbers followed by a year of great abundance e.g. in 2005 they came to MV throughout Whippendell wood by the dozen during May and early June with a horizontal sheet often crawling with them but during 2006 only single specimens were seen. Strictly nocturnal they are found throughout Whippendell and adjacent woods and we know them to be common in the woods around nearby Ruislip (2005). Life cycle takes between three and four years, the adults emerging from subterranean pupae during May (exceptionally April) and June then flying to trees where they feed on leaves. In years of abundance they may be seen swarming around tree tops in large numbers, a habit also displayed by Amphimallon, and their presence often made obvious by extensive defoliation. After a few days of swarming, feedng and mating the females return to open areas of soil where they burrow to lay batches of between 12 and 30 eggs. They then return to feeding on trees and this egg laying behaviour may be repeated several times. In all each female lays around 70 eggs. Larvae hatch within 5 or 6 weeks and commence feeding on roots of a variety of herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees. During the first year their activities are insignificant but from their second summer they become very destructive, in the past having been notorious crop pests especially of grasses. Said to be less abundant than formerly in many districts (Jessop) and, after many years of observing Coleoptera in Ruislip woods we would be inclined to agree.

20-30mm. From front of head to apex of elytra. Size and general appearance should isolate our Melolontha species from other British chafers, the only possible confusion is with Amphimallon spp. but these are smaller, 15-20mm., and have a three segmented antennal club. In Melolontha there are six lamellae in the female, typically 1.5mm long and seven in the male, typically 3.5mm long. First and third antennal segments much longer than second. Head, except for front margin, pronotum and scutellum black. Appendages and elytra chestnut brown. Anterior margin of clypeus raised, more strongly so in the male. Head and pronotum with recumbent yellow pubescence, that on elytra white and much shorter. Elytra finely punctured throughout and each with four glabrous longitudinal ridges. Abdominal sternites with well defined triangular patch of white pubescence laterally. Protibia of male with two teeth on outer side, in the female there are three. Apex of hind tibia with two spurs close together, closer than the width of the first tarsal segment. Pygidium elongate and narrowest at apex, in M.hippocastini Fab. it is constricted subapically and so narrowest before apex. M.hippocastini is a local scottish species rare in England north of the lake district. The adaegi of both species are figured in Britton and Jessop.

Description from 1 Watford specimen at X 10