FESTIVE FLAIR: A golden Christmas beetle enjoying some eucalyptus leaves.
FESTIVE FLAIR: A golden Christmas beetle enjoying some eucalyptus leaves. Noah Kirkland

Where have all the Christmas beetles gone?

IF you've been wondering where all the Christmas beetles have gone, you're not alone.

Anecdotal evidence suggests Australia's endemic Christmas beetle population is on the decline. Entomologist Dr Chris Reid, from the Australian Museum, attributes the drop in sightings to drier than usual spring weather, especially along the coast of NSW.

Here on the Coffs Coast the decline hasn't gone unnoticed.

"I usually can't sit outside with the light on this time of year as there's so many (I'm at Corindi) but I've seen only about two this year, and haven't had to keep the outside light off at all," Shantell Acebedo posted on the Advocate's Facebook page.

"Thirty years ago, I'd shake the gum tree in my front yard and it would literally rain Christmas beetles. I haven't seen one in years," Merilyn Horton wrote.

Trish Welsh agreed: "Haven't seen any in Coffs this year. In previous summers they were literally 'raining' down."

Sarah Jones reported seeing: "Thousands on the way to Ebor the other day but they're definitely on the decline in Coffs from what there was twenty years ago."

 

NOT SO COMMON: Denise Grimberg captured the first beetle of the season at north Boambee but says they're
NOT SO COMMON: Denise Grimberg captured the first beetle of the season at north Boambee but says they're "nothing like they used to be."

The classic habitat for Christmas beetles is woodland with plenty of trees and rich soil.

The larvae develop in soil and remain there as curl grubs, feeding on grass and plant roots, as well as the surface roots of eucalypts. As adults they mainly eat eucalyptus leaves but are known to consume the foliage of introduced species, such as the peppercorn tree.

These colourful scarabs are associated with the festive season as their larvae hatches around the end of spring and start of summer.

"When we're seeing (the adults) just before Christmas they're at the stage of laying eggs," Dr Reid said.

In addition to the drier conditions, habitat loss is another factor believed to be linked to the decline.

Some Coffs residents fear the use of pesticides might also have something to do with it.

"When I was a kid we had dozens and dozens around. Now I see one every second year. So sad, all that spraying would have to have some effect," Helen Rule-Todd posted.

"None around here any more. And since the introduction of blueberry farms in this neighbourhood, other insects such as cicadas and spiders are now on the decline too. Native animals such as tawny frogmouths and bandicoots have vanished altogether," Sally Wilson wrote.



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