Arthropods, or beetles, aren't the cuddliest of pets, it's true. However, fans all over the world appreciate the different kinds of pet June bugs for their unique looks, their minimal housing needs and their ease of care. All through their life cycles -- from eggs to larvae, larvae to pupae and pupae to adult beetles -- June bugs make fascinating pets.
June bugs aren't "true bugs," they're beetles of the scarab family in the Coleoptera order. While more than 300 species fall under this sub-family -- Melolonthinae -- about 50 beetles around the world share the June bug or June beetle name. That's a lot of cousins.
June Beetles as Pets
Four species of June beetles are commonly kept as pets:
- the Chafer beetle, native to the northeastern United States
- the Green June beetle, native to the southeastern United States
- the Japanese beetle, found in the Midwest
- the ten-lined June beetle, native to the Pacific Northwest and the West Coast
The main difference in these June beetles -- other than their ranges -- is their coloring. Green June beetles, for example, have bright green carapaces that reflect light in an iridescent way. Japanese beetles are a deep, shiny green, and their wing covers are orange. Ten-lined June beetles have horizontal black-and-white stripes running down their bodies. Chafer beetles are tan or light brown.
These visual differences may explain why your version of a June beetle may look nothing like the June beetles found in other regions. While their exact life spans differ by species -- one to five years -- June beetles require similar care and go through the same stages of metamorphosis.
Portrait of the Beetle as a Young Grub
During the summer, adult June beetles lay 50 to 200 eggs deep in the soil, near the roots of trees. The eggs are small and pearly-white. At the egg stage, captive June beetles do not need much space; you can keep them in a small container, covered in a comfortable amount of sandy substrate. They should not be disturbed.
After a couple of weeks the eggs hatch, and the young white larva -- a half-inch to 2 inches in length -- feast on the new roots of plants and trees. Once larva emerge in your containers, press decaying bits of bark and roots into the soil near the grubs for them to feed on. Moistened dry cat food can supplement a pet June beetle's diet as he grows. Keep the container humid by spraying now and again with a water bottle -- but don't flood the habitat. As the weather gets colder, the larva, also known as grubs, burrow further down into the soil to wait out the winter.
When the weather warms, and spring begins, the hungry grubs move upward and begin to devour roots once more. This larval stage of June beetles can last up to four years, with the white grubs moving up and down within the soil according to season. Eventually, just before spring, the larvae will pupate, beginning their next phase of life, the pupal stage.
The June beetles will undergo their greatest change after they enter their chrysalises. This process, in which they pupate, and metamorphose into adult beetles, can last around five weeks. During this time they will not eat, drink or move around: Don't worry. This is simply the third stage of beetle life.
With some beetles, it is possible to prompt them to pupate by isolating them in a warm, dark habitat. Isolation can be as simple as a small plastic container with one or two tiny air holes in the lid. The beetle larvae will choose their own spots above the substrate, although they may craft small cocoons of sand and proteins: Don't move or disturb the cocoons. Beetle pupae don't travel, but they will wiggle inside their chrysalises. A pupa that is completely motionless has probably died.
When the weather begins to warm again, the now adult June beetles emerge from their chrysalises entirely different-looking creatures than they were before. White grubs no longer, they will have exoskeletons, legs and mandibles. Their tastes will have changed, as well: Now you'll want to feed plant matter indigenous to their species. Ten-lined June beetles love the leaves of conifer trees, while Japanese beetles prefer roses and grapes. You can purchase a puddinglike food specifically for beetles, too; "beetle jelly" is its common name.
Always research the exact species of June beetle that you are fostering. Some have specific preferences in temperature or humidity levels in their terrariums.
The adult beetles will need greater space than their younger grub selves, and it's a good idea to provide them with branches and plants for stimulation.
June beetles can fly, and will usually do so to find a mate. When taking your beetle from his habitat, be prepared to catch him if he decides a zoom around your room would be fun. Fortunately, June beetles are attracted to bright lights, making them easy targets. If kept well-fed and maintained, an adult June beetle has a life expectancy of about one year.