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It's getting warm and suddenly numerous brown and brown-red beetles emerge from the ground, satisfying their hunger for leaves, flowers and roots of numerous garden plants. Which bugs? June beetle and may beetle. The two beetle genera are among the best-known little animals that fly in the garden from May to July and are often caught by children. At first glance, they look confusingly similar, but where are the differences in a direct comparison?


Why the mix up?

It is no wonder that June beetles and May beetles are confused with one another, given their characteristics. In addition to the similar color of the wings and the generally similar body shape, the periods when they are looking for a mate as an adult animal also overlap. The beetles are completely different genera. So what is the reason for the similar characteristics? The family. June beetles and may beetles both come from the Scarabaeidae family, the scarab beetles, which, with over 20,000 taxa, are one of the most species-rich insect families. However, the difference between the beetles is clear and these can be easily compared.

Tip: Don't confuse ladybugs with Junebugs! In some regions of the German-speaking area, the term Junikäfer has become common for ladybirds, although these are a completely independent family with the Latin name Coccinellidae.


May beetles and June beetles: the difference is in the details

It's not exactly difficult to tell the two beetles apart, especially when compared head-to-head. It does not matter which species of May beetle native to Europe and Germany is compared to the June beetle (Amphimallon solstitiale), whose actual name is the ribbed fallow beetle.

June beetle and may beetle in comparison

Two cockchafer species can be found in Germany:

  • Cockchafer (Melolontha hippocastani)
  • Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)

the field cockchafer comes much more frequently like that wood cockchafer and is by far the better known species as it can be found throughout Germany. Because the two species are so similar, they can be relaxed compared to Amphimallon solstitiale. When comparing the beetles, it is important to take a closer look at the individual aspects and compare them. The following points clarify exactly how the two flying insects can be distinguished.


height and weight

May beetles can be easily distinguished from June beetles by their size. cockchafer have a size of 2.5 to 3 cm, which is very large for a beetle in Germany. It is not for nothing that Amphimallon solstitiale is called the little brother of Melolontha, because June beetle only reach sizes of 1.3 to 1.8 cm, which is a clear difference. The weight is also different. Cockchafer species weigh up to a gram, while ribbed fallow beetles are noticeably less. So if you're holding a large, fairly heavy beetle, it's probably a cockchafer.


Although the color of the beetles is the same at first glance, the difference is clear on closer inspection. June beetle are consistently kept in a light brown color tone, which is not crossed by patterns or other colors at any point. Only the ends of the legs can be a little darker.

In the case of cockchafers, on the other hand, the individual parts of the body are colored differently:

  • Wings: reddish brown
  • Underside: black
  • Pronotum: black
  • Body sides: black with white zigzag pattern
Cockchafer on flower

As you can see, cockchafers are easy to distinguish from June beetles thanks to the underside and the pronotum, as well as the sides of the body. However, this is often not visible at first glance, especially if you are startled when the beetle appears. However, dormant beetles can easily be compared from the side, thanks to the cockchafer pattern.


As similar as the habitat of the beetles might be, they prefer a quite different habitat. This point is important, because if you know about the habitat, you can adjust to the particular beetle when you go into the forest, for example.

June beetles have selected the following habitats:

  • forest edges
  • parks
  • Gardens, like moist and warm
  • open fields, less preferred
  • avenues
  • Hills and lowlands are preferred
  • extremely rare in mountains

In the case of cockchafers, on the other hand, a distinction must be made between the individual species. the field cockchafer is commonly found in the following locations.

  • open fields, strongly preferred
  • grasslands
  • forest edges
  • gardens
  • pastures

the wood cockchafer on the other hand, prefers a completely different habitat, even if these can often overlap with the field cockchafer.

  • sandy forest areas
  • heathland
  • forest edges

For this reason, the forest cockchafer is much more common in the north and east of Germany, while the field cockchafer prefers the south and west. However, June and May beetles are always found around people; strongest in villages and small towns that have lots of outdoors.

June beetle


lifetime and flight time

The lifespan of the beetles is very different in direct comparison. They go through several stages until they have grown into a full adult specimen.

The service life in detail:

  • June beetle: Larvae grow for about 2 years, pupate in the 3rd year, then live up to 6 weeks
  • cockchafer: Larvae grow for about 3 - 4 years, pupate in the 4th - 5th year, then live a maximum of 8 weeks

For this reason, explosive swarms of cockchafers can often occur when more eggs have hatched and larvae have survived in a year. The main flight time for June beetles is from the end of June to the end of July at the latest, for May beetles starting in May and ending in June. Thanks to the flight period of insects, they got their names, which directly refer to them. Since the flight times overlap, they are often confused.


This difference is particularly important for gardeners and farmers, because June beetles are considered pests because of their diet, May beetles only because of the season.

The diet in comparison:

  • cockchafer: Leaves, mostly from deciduous trees
  • June beetle: leaves, flowers

Since the June beetle likes to attack the flowers of native and even naturalized garden plants, it is a nightmare for many garden owners.

Cockchafer on a branch


activity type

The two beetles differ significantly in their activity type, which makes the distinction very easy. The activity type is the part of the day when the beetles are actively looking for a mate. In the case of cockchafers, this is during the day, while ribbed fallow beetles wake up at dusk and still fly at night. Fallow beetles are therefore attracted to light and like to buzz around apartments when the windows are open and the lights are on. On the other hand, you will only encounter cockchafers during the day and since they are not attracted to artificial light, they are usually the more pleasant companions.


The hairiness is a visible and tactile difference between the two beetles. While only the tip of the abdomen is slightly hairy in cockchafers, the entire June beetle is covered with hair, especially the underbelly and the part under the wings. The hairs are even visible when the beetle is turned over.


The antennae of the June beetle are only weakly developed and stand out at right angles from the head. In males they are longer. The cockchafer, on the other hand, is famous for its antennae, which are very conspicuous in comparison, at least in the males. These protrude forward and have slats at the ends. The lamellae are aligned like a fan and have 50,000 scent sensors that help the animals find mates. Female cockchafers rarely fly, so many people assume that all cockchafers have these lamellar antennae, even though they are only males.

May beetles with special feelers


The term grub describes the larvae of May and June beetles, which remain in the soil for several years and feed on plant material. They eat rotten parts of plants and roots, including living plants, which makes them a nuisance and pest for many garden owners. June beetles are particularly bad because they eat a larger number of plants. These include rose bushes, which May beetle larvae avoid. But the infestation by June beetle grubs on lawns is particularly evident. They love to eat the lawn grasses, leaving lifeless, bare lawns.

Tip: there is a third species of cockchafer, Melolontha pectoralis, which is rarely seen in Germany. These are only occasionally sighted in south-west Germany, but are not worth mentioning.

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