June bugs came by their common name for the simplest of reasons. June is when the adult June bugs crawl out of the soil.
There are about 400 different species of June bugs in North America, although it’s more accurate to say species of beetles. All of them belong to the genus Phyllophaga, which means leaf eater.
It’s the leaf eater part that makes them a problem in the United States. They’re a pest known for destroying lawns as well as crops. The larvae (grubs) feed on roots and tubers while the adults feed on leaves. It’s a potent combination.
So if you have a June Bug problem in your garden or yard, you're in the right place.
This Pest Strategies guide will cover the following:
- What are June Bugs?
- Are June Bugs poisonous or dangerous?
- What attracts June Bugs to your yard?
- And tips for handling your June Bug problem!
If you're short on time, click here to jump right to our recommendations for getting rid of June Bugs.
What are June Bugs?
June bugs are actually May beetles (confusing, right?). They’re in the family Scarabaeidae (scarab) and the order Coleoptera (beetles). In other words, they’re one of the species of scarab beetles like something out of the mummy movie, making them quite creepy!
They’re clumsy fliers, often bumping into things in flight. It doesn’t hurt them and they don’t have any stingers so it won’t hurt anyone they bump into, but it is disturbing. They can become tangled in long hair if they fly into your head, so beware of that.
Like many insects, they’re attracted to lights, so you may find them spread across your porch in the morning if you leave the porch lights on all night.
Their life cycle is about a year long. After they emerge around June, the males will be found “dive-bombing” the yard in search of females to mate with. Once mated, the females lay 10-30 eggs in moist soil. The eggs will hatch in late summer around August.
In the larval stage, the white grubs feed on grass clippings, thatch, and other organic matter. They prefer soil with a high moisture content so a well-watered yard is a perfect habitat for them. Occasionally they’re seen crawling on their back, one of the few insects that can manage it.
They overwinter in the soil, feeding on plant roots and tubers while going through several instars (growth stages) until late spring when they emerge as adults and start the cycle all over again.
Are June Bugs Poisonous or Dangerous?
No, June bugs aren’t dangerous at all. If not for the damage they can cause to your lawn and/or field crops, they would be considered a mild nuisance at best. In fact, beetles are among the over 2000 species of bugs that are edible.
However, some of the predators that eat June bugs can be dangerous or at least damaging to your lawn, bushes, and crops. Raccoons, skunks, and wild turkeys are fond of eating June bugs and their digging in the ground to find them can cause excessive amounts of damage.
An infestation of June bugs will attract numerous predators who can, and often do cause more damage and problems than the beetles themselves. On the other hand, if you’re an avid turkey hunter, go where the June bugs are. You’ll improve your chances of getting one.
Check out the video below for other interesting facts about June Bugs!
What Do June Bugs Look Like & How Do I Identify June Bug?
June bugs are fairly distinctive. They are tan to reddish-brown with oval-shaped bodies. These brown beetles average about 1/2" to 3/4" in length. Some of them are green with an iridescent sheen to them. Some varieties are darker brown with black edges. They have curved wings.
Many beetles are fast and agile but June bugs are the exception to the rule. They’re as clumsy on the ground as they are in the air. Much of the damage they do to leaves is simply the result of them trying to hang on and not fall off.
Their clumsiness in flight is accounted for by their two sets of wings. On the ground, their front flying wings are covered by a stiff second pair (elytra) that serve to protect them, but during flight, they’re held out to the side which creates aerodynamic instability.
June bug larvae are about 3/4" in length, grayish-white with six legs up by the head, which has a tan to brown coloration. They tend to curl up into a C-shape when disturbed. The legs near the head help them burrow through loose soil.
What Other Names Are June Bugs Referred To As?
June bugs, AKA, May beetles, have a number of different names. The most common are Phyllophaga, which has over 100 variations. There is the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica), the annual white grub (Cyclocephala), and the green June beetle (Cotinis nitida).
They can also be called a June beetle and in Europe, they’re known as a chafer.
What Are June Bugs Commonly Mistaken For?
June bugs are beetles so it’s not surprising they’re similar in appearance to dozens of other beetles. The researchers in the Agriculture and Life Sciences Department at Virginia Tech have compiled a partial list of the beetles most commonly mistaken for them.
June Bugs Vs. Bark Beetles
At first glance, 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.
June Bugs Vs. Cigarette Beetles
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.
June Bugs Vs. Drugstore Beetles
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.
June Bugs Vs. Doodlebugs AKA Roly-Poly
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 as June bugs so it’s easy to mistake one for the other at first glance.
If you are still confused, watch the video below to learn how to identify these particular beetles!
What Attracts June Bugs to Your Yard?
The key attractants are soft moist soil and plenty of organic material for them to eat. Grass clippings are a favorite food source for them due to the convenience. They don’t have to climb or fly to get it.
Avoid drawing them in by using a bagger-type lawnmower that scoops up all the clippings. Water your yard enough to keep it green but don’t leave the soil moist and spongy all the time. That will create conditions suitable for them and draw them in.
Lights are a major attractant too. The males are out looking for females at dusk and bright lights will draw them like a magnet.
How to Get Rid of June Bugs (Most Popular Method)
The most often used method of controlling June bugs is the removal of infected trees and/or turf. Remove the trees, including the roots and burn them. Cut out any turf areas, roll them up, and remove them. Burning is recommended there too.
This is an expensive, labor-intensive method of pest control but due to the larvae living in the soil, it’s the only method you can use to get rid of them quickly. If you’re willing to take a more long-term, you can use pesticides.
If you decide to go the pesticide route, you have to understand it will take a full life cycle or longer before you achieve control of the June bug population. It could take up to two years to eradicate them so make sure you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
The Best Treatment to Kill June Bugs
Beetles can be killed with an application of Bifenthrin. It’s available in a liquid concentrate form and a granular form. You’ll need both, the liquid concentrate during the hot dry part of the year and the granules during the cold wet part of the year.
Talstar One is the liquid form used by professional pest control companies. A pint bottle of the concentrate will make 16-20 gallons of pesticide. You’ll need to mix it and spray it on your yard using a pump up sprayer like this 2-gallon pump-up sprayer.
Follow the mixing directions on the label then spray it on your lawn using a steady back-and-forth motion. One gallon should cover about 2,000 square feet of yard. Don’t spray when the ground is wet or the pesticide won’t stick. Once it’s sprayed, it will last about 90 days.
At the end of 90 days, respray the entire yard to ensure a continuous covering of pesticide across the entire yard. As the June bugs crawl across it and the larvae hatch out, they’ll contact the pesticide and begin dying.
Talstar PL Granules need to be spread during the cold, wet season using a hand-powered spreader. Each 25-pound bag should cover approximately 10,000 square feet when you’re turning the hand crank about two revolutions per second and moving at a normal walking pace.
There are several settings on the spreader that control how fast the granules come out of the hopper. Set it to the second or third setting from the smallest one. You’ll have to judge it a bit.
Talstar granules are water activated, which is what makes them useful during the wet part of the year. The best time to spread them is when the ground is still wet after a good rain or snow. The moisture will begin melting the insecticide and spreading it across your yard.
Talstar One is the liquid form used by professional pest control companies. A pint bottle of the concentrate will make 16-20 gallons of pesticide. You’ll need to mix it and spray it on your yard using a 2-gallon pump-up sprayer.
Other Beetle Guides
Curious about other beetle-related articles? Check out our other detailed guides to help you deal with your pest problems.