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Beetle larvae can be found everywhere, whether in the garden, in the forest or even in the garden pond. Identifying them correctly is not easy, this text can help and lists 21 larvae of the most common beetle species.

In a nutshell

  • Beetle larvae are found in every habitat
  • they are very different from the actual beetle
  • typical grubs are light-colored, with a dark abdomen and head, and a crooked posture
  • most beetles and their larvae are harmless
  • some species are so rare that they are protected

Beetle larvae from B from G

Birch Leaf Roller (Deporaus betulae)

Source: Janet Graham, Deporaus betulae, Coed Aber Atro, North Wales, May 2010 (18341147575), Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 2.0
  • Larvae: very small, whitish, seldom seen, the leaf scroll produced by the female beetle is more conspicuous and contains the larvae
  • Beetles: April to July, 3 to 5 mm, glossy black
  • Fodder plant: birches, less often other deciduous trees
  • Occurrence: everywhere where there are birch trees, very common

Bark beetle (Scolytidae)

Book printer (Ips typographus)
  • Larva: whitish, a few mm in size, directly under the bark, the feeding tunnels are easy to recognize
  • Beetles: May to October, 2 to 7 mm, dark brown to black
  • Fodder plant: each species has its preferred tree (beech printer, e.g. spruce)
  • Occurrence: Very common in forests of all kinds

Notice: Bark beetles are considered forest pests because they can destroy entire stands of trees in a very short time.

Common bacon beetle (Dermestes lardarius)

  • Larvae: much larger than the beetles, elongated, with bristly hairs
  • Beetles: all year round, 7 to 9 mm, black, elytra light hairy on the front, with black spots
  • Lining: dry remains of meat, but also as a pest on textiles, supplies and natural science collections
  • Occurrence: in old insect nests, houses or on dry animal carcasses

Common bee beetle (Trichodes apiarius)

Source: Siga, Trichodes apiarius larva bl2, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Larva: pink, black head
  • Beetles: May to August, 9 to 13 mm, body shiny black, wing coverts striped black and red
  • Food: beetles eat pollen or other insects, larvae develop in beehives, but do little damage there
  • Occurrence: warm, sunny places, dry meadows, gardens, forest edges, not common

Gold rose chafer (Cetonia aurata)

Source: Fritz Geller-Grimm, Scara fg02, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Larva: up to 5 cm, light yellowish-brown grubs, bristly hairs, tiny red spots on the sides
  • Beetle: May to October, 15 to 20 mm, upper side has a metallic luster green-gold, underside is red-gold, easy to identify based on the characteristics
  • Food: Larvae eat rotting parts of plants, beetles suck on plants, eat pollen or parts of flowers
  • Occurrence: Often on flowering plants, including roses, but does not damage them

Notice: The species, also known as the common rose beetle, is protected by the Federal Species Protection Ordinance (BArtSchV).

Large firefly (Lampyris noctiluca)

  • Larva: similar to the female, with yellowish spots on the side of the body
  • Beetles: July to August, 11 to 18 mm, males dark grey, winged, females dark gray and pink, unable to fly, has a luminous spot that glows in the dark and attracts males
  • Food: Larvae only eat snails
  • Occurrence: Common in deciduous forests, on meadows and dry grassland, easily recognizable in the dark

From H to K

Hazelnut borer (Curculio nucum)

  • Larva: grows in hazelnuts, whitish to yellowish, reddish head
  • Beetle: 6 to 8.5 mm, predominantly brown, but also marked in black and white, long proboscis
  • Forage plant: mainly hazel, but also fruits and leaves of fruit trees
  • Occurrence: Common everywhere, in orchards as a pest

House Longhorn (Hylotrupes bajulus)

Source: Rasbak, Hylotrupes bajulus (huisboktor) (4), Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Larvae: whitish, rarely seen but definitely audible (feeding noises), preferably in the attic
  • Beetles: June to July, 8 to 22 mm, flat, dark body
  • Fodder plant: dead coniferous wood, also construction timber, therefore feared as a building pest
  • Occurrence: common everywhere, also in buildings

Stag beetle (Lucanus cervus)

Female stag beetle larva
Source: Mariafremlin, Female Lucanus cervus larva, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Larva: up to 10 cm, whitish to cream-colored grubs, brownish head
  • Beetles: June to August, 25 to 75 mm, dark reddish brown to black, largest native beetle, upper jaw of males transformed into pincers resembling deer antlers
  • Food plant: Beetles suck tree sap, larvae feed on the roots of old, fungus-infested deciduous trees
  • Occurrence: in old oak forests, now very rare

Notice: According to the Federal Species Protection Ordinance, the stag beetle is one of the beetle species worthy of protection.

June beetle (Amphimallon solstitiale)

Source: Bernard Ladenthin, 2022-10-13 Amphimallon solstitiale grub 1, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY 4.0
  • Larva: 30 mm, typically curved, yellowish white, brownish head, three pairs of sternums
  • Beetles: June to July, 14 to 18 mm, tawny to reddish brown, hairy, swarm but fly clumsily
  • Food plant: grubs feed on plant roots and remains, beetles prefer leaves and flowers
  • Occurrence: in gardens and on the edges of forests, common everywhere, sometimes difficult to distinguish from the May beetle

Notice: The June beetle is also often referred to as the ribbed fallow beetle.

Colorado potato beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata)

  • Larva: reddish, with rows of black dots
  • Beetles: 7 to 11 mm, easy to recognize and identify, yellowish elytra with black stripes
  • Fodder plant: Solanaceae, mainly potatoes in the garden
  • Occurrence: Very common near potatoes, rare in the wild

Hints: The beetle larvae and adults cause serious damage to potato crops. There are few natural enemies.

Little Glowworm (Lamprohiza splendidula)

Source: Kryp, Lamprohiza-splendidula-01-fws, Edited from Plantopedia, CC0 1.0
  • Larva: very flat, greyish, resemble isopods, also with a faint glow
  • Beetles: June to July, 8 to 10 mm, inconspicuous during the day, easy to recognize by the glow at night, males able to fly brown, females not able to fly, whitish
  • Food: Beetle larvae eat snails
  • Occurrence: prefers damp deciduous forests or open landscapes with trees, sometimes common

From M to N

Cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha)

  • Larva: yellowish white, hind end dark, brownish head, not easily distinguishable from other grubs
  • Beetles: May to June, 20 to 30 mm, reddish brown, black pronotum, antennae compartments
  • Food plant: beetle larvae feed on various plant roots and can cause serious damage, beetles eat leaves
  • Occurrence: sometimes very common, in large swarms on forest edges

Ladybird (Coccinellidae)

Two-spot ladybird larva (Adalia bipunctata)
  • Larva: from May, blue with yellow dots, often on plants infested with lice
  • Beetle: all year round, 4 to 8 mm, likes to hibernate in buildings, basic colors are red or yellow, with black or white dots, each species is easy to identify
  • Lining: lice, therefore a useful creature
  • Occurrence: Found everywhere

Meal Beetle (Tenebrio molitor)

  • Larva: brownish, good food for birds and larger fish
  • Beetles: all year round, 12 to 18 mm, dark brown to black, longitudinal striations on the wings
  • Forage: dry supplies of all kinds, primarily flour and grain
  • Occurrence: in buildings, stored product pest

Rhinoceros Beetle (Oryctes nasicornis)

  • Larva: up to 12 cm, yellowish with dark spots on the sides, curved, dark posterior end, brownish head
  • Beetles: June to July, 20 to 40 mm, reddish brown, males have horns
  • Lining: adaptable, formerly rotten wood, later sawdust, today grubs can be found in the compost heap
  • Occurrence: in gardens, parks or near sawmills, not common

Notice: The Federal Species Protection Ordinance lists the rhino as a specially protected animal species.

From S to W

Snail Shell Nest Beetle (Drilus concolor)

male specimen
Source: Siga, Drilus concolor natur, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0
  • Larva: Easily recognized and distinguished from other larvae, striped light and dark brown, with bristly appendages on the sides
  • Beetles: May to August, females up to 16 mm, like larvae, without wings, brown, males up to 5 mm, black, able to fly
  • Food: Larvae eat snails
  • Occurrence: in forests, open landscapes and gardens, the beetle larvae also like to sit on walls or house walls

Swimming beetles (Dytiscidae)

The yellow smut beetle (Dysticus marginalis) is the most common representative of its genus in Central Europe.
  • Larva: Elongated, brownish gray, with sharp mouthparts, can swim well
  • Beetles: a few millimeters to 3 cm in size, year-round, streamlined body, dark brown
  • Food: larvae of other aquatic animals, snails, the beetles also eat carrion
  • Occurrence: mainly in standing water, common everywhere

Soldier Beetle (Cantharis fusca)

Soldier beetles mating
  • Larva: elongated, narrow, dark, lives on the ground, often on snow in winter
  • Beetles: May to July, 11 to 15 mm, body and head red-orange, dark gray elytra, oblong shape
  • Food: the beetle prefers flowers or dead animals, the larvae eat worms, snails or plant parts
  • Occurrence: common everywhere, inhabits different habitats

Gravedigger (Nicrophorus vespillo)

  • Larva: grey, flat, isopod-shaped
  • Beetle: all year round, 12 to 22 mm, black body and elytra with yellow-red transverse bands
  • Lining: burrows dead animals and raises its larvae there
  • Occurrence: Forest clearings, open landscapes, common everywhere

Water beetles (Hydrophilidae)

Greater Pistachio Sandpiper (Hydrophilus piceus)
Source: Darkone, Hydrous piceus 1, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 2.5 (beetle), Herbert Henderkes, Hydrous piceus larva by H. Henderkes, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 (larva)
  • Larva: up to 7 cm, clumsy, dark body, brownish head
  • Beetles: between 5 and 40 mm, all year round, dark brown to black
  • Food plant: beetles eat aquatic plants and algae, larvae feed on water snails
  • Occurrence: in waters of all kinds among the aquatic plants, rare to frequent depending on the species

Notice: Many species of this genus, such as the large water beetle (Hydrophilus piceus) or the black water beetle (H. aterrimus), are considered particularly worthy of protection under the Federal Species Protection Ordinance.

frequently asked Questions

What to do if you find beetle larvae?

Just leave most beetle larvae alone. Even herbivorous larvae are often so rare that they don't cause any major damage. An exception is the Colorado potato beetle, which is therefore also fought. It is best to bury or move any larvae found in the compost heap again.

Are beetles and their larvae dangerous?

Except for the larva of the swimming beetle, everyone else is helpless and defenseless. Swimming beetle larvae, on the other hand, can bite sensitively. Some other bugs may also sting or bite. It is safer to handle larger specimens only with gloves. The same applies to water beetles.

How can beneficial bugs be encouraged?

They need food and places to hide, as well as food for the larvae. Overgrown corners in the garden with hedges, piles of wood and leaves and stones are the best. For species that prefer rotten wood for development, stumps from felled trees are suitable.

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