GARDENING | Signs of beetles means it is starting to look like Christmas

There are around 35 different types of Christmas beetle found in Australia.
There are around 35 different types of Christmas beetle found in Australia.

The arrival of Christmas beetles signals the start of summer and the metallic green colour of some species makes them extremely attractive.

There are around 35 different types of Christmas beetle found in Australia but not all of them are going to cause damage to garden plants. They belong to a group of beetles known as scarabs, the adult beetles feed on the leaves of Eucalyptus trees and if an area only has a few trees, they can be defoliated by these ravenous critters. Not to worry impacted trees are most likely to bounce back.

This is the season when scarab beetles will be looking for a mate. If you leave a light on during hot summer nights especially in the east of Australia, you may find these nocturnal flying Christmas decorations in a bit of a frenzy. Christmas lights are the perfect attractant for these nomads of the night but unlike the three wise men they will not come bearing gifts. Once adults have mated, they will be seeking a suitable site to lay their eggs. Potted plants are an ideal situation and so is the well cultivated garden and the manicured lawn.

The larvae of scarab beetles commonly called curl grubs, can cause damage to the roots of plants, they are easily identified by their C-shaped white cream body with a brown head and greyish tail end. The larvae feed on decomposing organic matter and plant roots and with chewing mouthparts designed specifically for chomping through the roots of lawns, shrubs and annuals, these grubs can cause devastating damage to a garden in a short space of time. Bird activity on the lawn is often the first sign that grubs are present. Introducing free range poultry to the garden can assist in keeping grubs under control but the damage poultry cause to the garden is something to consider before letting them loose.

A watering can filled with biodegradable soapy water poured over the affected area may encourage grubs to the surface where birds can pick them off.

Control of curl grubs can be achieved through removing any grubs dug up when cultivating soils or re-potting plants, but if you come across more than 25 grubs per square metre of garden, a chemical control is recommended. Apply a drench of Neem oil to affected areas and pot plants and when using any chemical, follow the label directions.