Hardly extraordinary I can hear people thinking but the other day I saw a May bug here, first one in several years. In fact in the 25 years we have been here there have only been a couple of years when I have seen them.
A May bug or Cockchafer generally refers to Melolontha melolontha or the Common Cockchafer but there is an almost identical species in France with which they could be confused which is the Forest cockchafer, Melolontha hippocastani, which is a species found in woodlands.
Generally Melolontha melolontha is considered an to be an agricultural pest and they were brought almost to the point of extinction in the arable areas of
following the use of chemical insecticides such as
DDT and Lindane. Both of these caused massive environmental harm before being
banned from use. In the 19th century prior to insecticides being
available the beetles were collected by hand to be killed, a process called
“hannetonnages” that had some effectiveness even if a little laborious.
Schoolchildren would sometimes be enlisted to perform this task where they
would place sheets under the hedgerows in the morning and shake them out,
collecting them in containers. Back at school the chafers would be weighed and
some payment made by the kilo, a kilo roughly equalling 1,200 chafers. We can
only dream of such numbers these days. France
Since the 1970’s their numbers have slowly recovered on pasture land. However where intensive arable farming is practiced they are few and far between as almost every available piece of land is cultivated and constantly ploughed. This practice makes it close to impossible for them to complete their life cycle as any larvae, in the unlikely event that there should be any, are constantly bought to the surface and exposed to the birds that follow the tractors. This only leaves the roadside verges and any small uncultivated parcels of land. The situation has been made worse by the removal by the EU some 15 years or so ago of the requirement for farmers to leave a percentage of land fallow. This resulted from the misconceived idea that bio fuels are more important than habitat, a decision that has caused and is causing untold harm to a vast range of species.