The arrival of these Christmas Beetles informs us that the festive season is on its way, but these beetles were photographed on a collection of Golden Cane Palms a few kilometres away at Cockatoo Hill Retreat. It was our friend Carmen who discovered them amassed upon one of her flowering palms. A quick search was made of our own Cooper Creek Golden Palms and nary a beetle was found. We hear that the season is the reason for the appearance of these beautiful creatures.
There are 34 different species of Christmas Beetle in Australia. This specimen pictured above is probably Anoplognathus smaragdinus ohaus; Scarabaeidae; Rutelinae Green morph which is the most common, outnumbering other morphs in Australia.
Australian Christmas Beetles pupate late spring to early summer, from just below the surface of the soil. Early rains in November have triggered the emergence of fully developed beetles, that break out of their pupae, emerging from the soil to swarm towards their food sources. In this case, the burgeoning buds of the Golden Cane Palm (Dypsis lutescens), but around Australia gum trees are most affected.
2013 has been dry, and without the early rains which moisten the soil, the beetles could have perished. In cooler parts of Australia, Christmas Beetles take 2 years to emerge from their pupate form and to get together for a feeding and mating frenzy. Winter rains enhance larval survival and after spring rains or thunderstorms mass emergence can often occur as the ground becomes moist enough for the adults to emerge. Christmas beetles emerge late afternoon and can fly distances of several kilometres. Most flights occur at dusk, with beetles often attracted to outdoor lighting.
Christmas beetles are voracious feeders, making zigzag cuts and shredding the leaves. Trees can be defoliated when beetles arrive in swarms, and repeated annual swarms affecting the same trees, may lead to dieback and even death of chosen trees.
The feeling of optimism that these iridescent Christmas beetles bring is attributed to the reminder that the season of festivity and good will is on its way. Time to send out our Christmas newsletter.