beetle grub

The larval grub stage of the cockchafter beetle. These grubs live underground, feeding on roots for 3 to 4 years before merging as adult beetles.

Warm weather and a late spring have brought a late influx of Common Cockchafters (Melolontha melolontha) or May Bugs to the farm. These large beetles are now emerging as adult beetles after 3 to 4 years spent under the ground as white grubs that can grow up to 40mm long. They typically pupate during the summer of their third year, not unlike butterflies, before turning into their adult form,
which remains underground until summer (now!), when they finally emerge from the soil as reddish brown beetles with feathery antler-like antennae. You can use these to tell males from females, as males have seven ‘leaves’ on their antennae while females have only six.

The adult beetles feed on the leaves of trees and live for about a month, during which they mate and feed. They spend most of the day hidden among the trees, becoming active as the sun sets. At dusk they emerge noisily, buzzing around trees as they find mates and feed. They are clumsy fliers and you can often spot them crash landing into trees and each other. Once they have mated, the females will each lay between 60 and 80 eggs at the root of the trees and these eggs will hatch into grubs to start the cycle again.

Cockchafers seem particularly abundant this year and their emergence at dusk attracts many predators. Corvids such as crows and magpies wait at dusk for beetles to fall to the ground and snatch up. We’ve also spotted gulls swooping to catch them mid-air from the tops of the trees! You can find out more about these incredible beetles from Buglife and the Natural History Museum.

Poppies in bloom.

Summer has certainly arrived at the farm this month, with warm temperatures and long sunny days during the month of June. Many of the trees we saw in blossom in the early spring have now developed seeds and fruits, and reddening cherries are particularly conspicuous at this time. However, there are many more summer wildlflowers coming into bloom at this time. Over the past month we’ve seen elder fill with white blossoms, fields of poppies and irises surround our ponds. These are just a few of the many blooms on the farm, and their arrival has been matched by an increase in pollinators, including bees, beetles and butterflies. The Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper butterflies will be emerging soon as well as Large, Small and Essex Skippers who will all be on the wing in July.

We have also seen lots of birds fledging over the past month including great tits, blue tits and crows. The short grassy fields are filled with juvenile starlings, who have a dull brown colour compared to the glossy iridescent and black adults.

More photos of some of our highlights of June and ones to watch this July below and hope you have a fantastic month of spotting wildlife! Remember, you can always share your finds with us via facebook, twitter or flickr!

Here are some photos of our annual banquet. Gentle music and heady heat of a summers evening filled the air, as our guests drank pimms and enjoyed the goat race. The crowd was then led to a marquee adorned with flowers and a silver service, here a raffle and an auction took place as fine dining food was laid before the audience. The evening was completed in the barn, with a good old fashioned barn dance and cocktail. Even though the night was full of fun and games, it had more serious undertones as money was raised for; a milking cow, new roof for pets corner and money to pay for a classroom. We would like to thank everybody who came both the guests and others who donated their time, it’s thanks to you the Mudchute Park and Farm can keep running. Thanks also to Evgeny Semeykin for capturing the evening so beautifully on camera, to see his full set please follow the link.