It’s Christmas Beetle time

As we head into the festive season, one sure sign that Christmas is on its way is the emergence of the infamous Christmas Beetle.

The familiar whirring and clicking of the beetle as it haphazardly makes its way through the air, often crashing into a screen door or gathering around lights, stirs up a sense of melancholy of childhood Christmases for many.

Although many bemoan the demise of the Christmas Beetle population in recent years, Queensland Museum entomologists can confirm there are still plenty of these festive insects around, you just have to find them.

“The emergence of Christmas Beetles is dependent on rains and unless there are good rains, it might be another poor year,” Queensland Museum Emtomologist Dr Christine Lambkin said.

Belonging to the genus Anoplognathus, this Australian beetle has been nicknamed the Christmas Beetle, simply because the adults generally emerge around Christmas time.

Generations of Queenslanders have grown up admiring these clumsy beetles that hold a special place in their hearts.

While the majority of Christmas Beetles are golden brown, these merry creatures can be found with green or black tonings, and even with bright yellow borders. Head further north and the Christmas Beetle found in Tropical Queensland are iridescent with their gold, dark green and purple hues that glitter and sparkle.

Queensland Museum Emtomologist Dr Christine Lambkin said the shifting colours are structural and permanent.

“These multilayer reflectors are built into the hard shell of the beetle, which is why it is so dazzling,” Christine said.

One species, Anoplognathus smaragdinus, is well known for the many colour variants ranging from the common brilliant green, through the very rare sky blue, to greenish purples. And they are all just the one species.

The white curl grub larvae feed on the roots of grasses, and their numbers can build up in grasslands. When conditions are right, often following rain, adult beetles emerge from the soil and move to nearby Eucalyptus trees to feed. As we have reduced the numbers of eucalypts and increased grasslands in many parts of Australia, masses of newly emerged adults can defoliate the remaining trees.

There is something about the Christmas Beetle that stirs up a touch of nostalgia in us all.

And if you are keen to find them, Queensland Museum Entomologists recommend finding some eucalypts, or check street lights on a warm night after rain.

Learn more about Dr Christine Lambkin here.

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