Thursday, June 10, 2010

Creature Feature: Japanese Beetle.

Many of you probably know about the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) thanks to the little nibbles on your trees, shrubberies, and flowers. You might have seen these guys in your weeds, wreckin' your yard. Yes, they are related to the rose chafer beetles that I want in a lucite clock (both are in the family Scarabaeidae), but these are far, far more annoying.

Japanese beetles are, however, very very pretty. Like the rose chafer, they have some metallic green parts. Their wing covers are bronze-orange, and the whole bug would make a nice jewelery piece. At the tips of their antennae are little three-fingered 'hands' that reach out to give the beetle a better sense of its surroundings. (Am I the only one who finds that image both creepy and adorable?) Also, yes, those are tufts of hair you see on the beetle's underside.

I could praise these little green and orange bugs all day. That would not stop me from luring them into a little plastic bag and drowning them. As beautiful as they may be, they are, like lionfish, a destructive invasive species. Though well-regulated in their native habitat (Japan), in America, they have become even more infectious than DDR. They predate upon 200-odd plant species, including quite a few that humans would like to keep around.

Come pick my roses! No, wait, NOT LIKE THAT!

Japanese beetles probably came into the U.S. in a shipment of iris bulbs before 1912. They were first spotted in a New Jersey nursery in 1916, and have spread their way across the U.S. (and even into Canada) ever since. The beetles' success has caused an increase in some bird populations, which causes the birds to be considered pests themselves. (Why no one has labeled humans as pests, I'll never know. Sorry, jaded again.)

Just a reminder of what these guys can do.

So, despite their beauty, feel free to drown them, smack them into walls, seal them into plastic blocks, fry them (hey, you never know, might be good), use them in chicken feed, or tear off their wing coverts and make a necklace out of them. Get a big enough one, preserve it, and brag that you have a lucky Egyptian scarab. You'll be doing the United States a great service.

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