With Christmas and New Year behind us again, I – like many others – stopped
Although, I reflect a little differently for others and wonder about the
myths surrounding the Christmas beetles.
It is a common belief that Darwin is home to Christmas beetles. However, those
spiny, noisy and gray beaks flying to the ceiling fans and catapultam
walls are not technically Christmas beetles. Even if they show up for Christmas.
The beetles of Christmas are beetles (surname Scarabaeidae) and belong to the genus
This genus is represented by more than 30 species, none of which resides in Darwin.
In fact, in the Territory, the Christmas beetles were only registered to the north as in Borroloola.
Christmas beetles are relatively large, with strong, thorny legs that are used to dig.
Similar to most beetles, the top is rounded (convex) in cross section.
Unlike Darwin's beetles, the colors of Christmas beetles are much more vibrant and, depending on the species, are variably bright yellow, gold or metallic green.
There are many beetles in the Northern Territory, but the most common beetle is seen
in Darwin is Lepidiota (especially L. squamulata).
These beetles are unmistakably brown and covered in white scales and tend to emerge at the same time as the first rain.
Another local species – Ischiopsopha – appears a little earlier, flies much faster and
is more active during the middle of the day. This species is also likely to be confused
by some like a real Christmas beetle.
You may be able to identify Ischiopsopha because although it is bright metallic green, the upper body is distinctly flat.
Of course, this is if the beetle is left standing long enough to be recognized.
Beetles produce one generation a year with adults appearing in the spring
Summer; however, most of the year is spent as food and larval growth. Eggs are
placed on the larval substrate, which is often soil between the bases. Regardless of
species, larvae all look the same to the naked eye: a C-shaped larva with a darker head
and tail. When fully fed (in decaying logs, other plants or even manure) larvae
pupate on the same substrate or small hollow they have created.
The pupa looks like the adult, but white with the visible attachments sticking to the body. Pupation takes only a few weeks until adults appear, so most are commonly seen in the early evening on warmer, calmer nights.
Recently, there have been discussions about a significant decline at Christmas
populations of beetles, particularly around the Sydney area. Although the scientific evidence is
limited, any reduction is likely to result from habitat loss and localized insecticide
Christmas beetles tend to feed almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves as adults,
and with increasing urbanization and reduced food supply many species are sadly
As for Darwin's beetles, which tend to appear in the first rains,
it is possible that our beetles have also suffered due to the absolute lack of rain
If you have noticed a change in the habits or frequency of insects in your area or
I found something that you would like to identify, I would love to hear about it.