One of the most endearing images of summer in Australia is the Christmas Beetle. With its gentle nature and iridescent appearance, it enchants children and adults alike.
But you might have noticed there haven’t been so many of the sparkly critters around over the past few years. Until recently, the decline has been anecdotal, so scientists are now asking for our help in tracking their numbers.
Tanya Latty, an entomologist from the School of Life and Environmental Science at the University of Sydney, told the ABC recently that there has never been a dedicated long-term study into the decline of Christmas beetles.
“While everybody feels like numbers are going down and people claim that we don’t see them in the numbers that we used to, we don’t have that data,” she said.
According to the Australian Museum, it is quite possible they are disappearing, particularly since urbanisation continues to make life hard for them. The adults need eucalypt leaves, and the larvae need the roots of (preferably native) grasses, and such habitats are not so common anymore, at least around the larger cities.
Using insecticides in our gardens, as well as removing curl grubs found in the soil, also impact the survival of a variety of beneficial insects such as the Christmas Beetle.
Chris Reid, a principal research scientist at the Australian Museum, thinks that drought is another reason why we haven’t seen as many over the past few years.
“If the ground is too dry, the adults can’t emerge from the soil”, he said.
If you see any Christmas Beetles over the next few months, record your findings on the inaturalist.org website and help our scientists learn how to ensure the shiny critters delight generations of Australians into the future.