If someone visits Sarvodaya these days, they will probably notice a peculiar new creature calling the farm home. Large swarms of big, iridescent green June beetles (aka the figeater beetle, Cotinus mutabilis) have dominated the air space around the crops. These things are incredibly clumsy, flying into fences, plants, and other objects, quite frequently smacking you in the face if you’re not careful! They have an interesting habit of swarming on crops, creating big, green beetle mosh piles; I have noticed this on the grape vines and rampicante squash, among other plants.
Researching this insect, I learned that their life cycle begins in the spring. After hatching, they pupate underground for several months until emerging as adults in the summer. I suspect that the large, white larvae that we have been finding in the soil and feeding to the chickens for a while now are probably this beetle. We were pretty good about feeding every larvae we found to the chickens, but the beetle population still managed to explode! According to Katie, this beetle is a farm pest, chowing on soft fruit like peaches, figs, and tomatoes, the latter of which seems to be getting attacked the most lately. Although not as destructive as its cousin (the true June beetle, Cotinus nitida, a southeastern species), our figeaters are still targets for occasional culling, so that the population doesn’t get too out of hand.
Although some would consider this insect an enemy, I rather quite enjoy them. Their beautiful emerald sheen gives a colorful addition to the myriad of colors already on the farm, and their droning buzz almost possesses a meditative quality. The jeweled swarms, while disturbing to some, really are a sight to see! This marvelous natural occurrence can only be enjoyed in the summer season, so I am happily taking in the experience while it lasts.