Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Darling bugs of May

What on earth is this monster, apparently emerging from an egg box from behind a dozing Clouded Drab? Yes, it's Maybug time, or Billy Witches as some call them, although Cockchafer is the official title. That 'face' is actually its backside - and what strange creatures they are, with heavy armour but an apparently mild disposition, beautifully elaborate antennae and a black-and-white pattern along their flanks like the chevrons at a roundabout.

They live for well over the alleged single day; up to seven weeks or more, although the 12 of them in the trap the other night were passive enough to be dead - just the occasional leisurely flexing of a leg or antenna. Any which ended up their backs were completely stuck, as in the picture below. I couldn't bring myself to do it, but there were nearly enough to try a 19th century French recipe described on Wikipedia: "Roast one pound of cockchafers without wings and legs in sizzling butter, then cook them in a chicken soup, add some veal liver and serve with chives on a toast". German students in the 1920s were alleged to have eaten them with sugar, but maybe that was eine Rag Woche.


Nyctalus said...

..and much enjoyed, though not cooked, by the noctule bat...

Anonymous said...

I'm glad someone likes them! Our bats are out at dusk now, although the maybugs don't seem to emerge until it's properly dark. That's a nice little bat in (presumably) your hand. We had one in one of our sons' bedrooms some years ago and it was so small. The bat people came with one of their detectors and released it when they sensed that another similar one was around. It took two hours, so we got through a lot of tea and biscuits. All best M

Banished To A Pompous Land said...

Hi Martin
Cockchafers,another sign of the move northward?
I don't remember seeing many when I lived in Yorkshire and I only really got to know them once I was in Gloucester. Theres something very endearing about the bumbling beasts. Very early too aren't they?

By the way I finally have the bug (and other) blog up and running.


First post on some much much smaller beetles.

Anonymous said...

Great news re your blog, Banished. I shall hasten there straight away and urge all other readers to do so.

Yes I like Maybugs. Penny my wife thinks they're so heavily armoured because they crash around in flight and keep hitting things. I think there may be truth in this theory, rather like today's heavily 'armoured' cars which have cut the toll of road deaths so spectacularly

Nyctalus said...

Hi Martin, yes, that is in fact a noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula) which happens to be my favourite as you might guess. It's the biggest we get up in Northumberland and several times the size of the small one you had in the house (pipistrelle probably?). It's in a friend's hands not mine, mainly because she was training to be a bat worker and a right of passage is to manage to retrieve a noctule from the catching net without letting it sink its gnashers into your finger!

Anonymous said...


I never cease to be impressed by the power bats have in conservation terms

Builders and householders are terrified of mentioning their presence, although I'm delighted we've got them here

I regret to say that one of my grandads who was in the Home Guard used War Office fire hoses to try to squirt his bats out the eaves...

All v best