Tanya Loos

Christmas Beetles,  those big bumbling beetles in gold and green, used to be seen at this time of year in great numbers. Sadly, now sightings are few and far between. In recent years I have become obsessed with taking insect pics in summer and uploading them to the citizen scientist app iNaturalist – and I only have one Christmas Beetle sighting!

Christmas Beetles are actually a group of beetles of approximately 36 different species (Anoplognathus genus). They need native habitats to survive. The young beetles or curl grubs live in the grassland areas of woodlands eating the roots of native grasses. They pupate underground;  then when the adults emerge, they eat Eucalyptus leaves. We still have plenty of Eucalypts for the adults to eat but agriculture and urban development have destroyed so much native grass understorey there is not much habitat remaining for the young beetles. Insecticide use and climate change may also be contributing to their decline.

Entomologists are worried! So new conservation organisation Invertebrates Australia has teamed up with the Australian Museum to launch the Christmas Beetle Count to work out where Christmas Beetles still occur and what species they are. And the platform they are using is iNaturalist – which I love! Check out the project here: Christmas Beetle Count · iNaturalist Australia (ala.org.au) You will need to sign up – but it is free.

This Golden Stag Beetle is sometimes confused for the Christmas Beetle.

There is also a really cute Christmas beetle ID app available for smartphones available here: Xmas Beetle ID Guide on the App Store (apple.com). There is also an android version. Happily the iNaturalist app helps ID the beetles, so you don’t necessarily need this app.

How to identify Christmas Beetles? Firstly,  not all iridescent beetles are Christmas Beetles! In recent years we have had a few gorgeous gold green Golden Stag beetles locally, but they are not Christmas Beetles.  Christmas Beetles have an iconic oval chunky shape and smallish head, often with duck-bill shaped mouthparts, and thick legs like they are wearing leg warmers.

Christmas beetles are nocturnal – so look for them around your verandah lights (if you have them) or on Eucalyptus leaves.

For a bit more about the beetles see “Where are all the Christmas Beetles?” And let’s hope we see a few this Christmas!


Tanya Loos is a local naturalist, author and environmental consultant who loves to work in the environmental not-for-profit sector. She is the author of “Daylesford Nature Diary” available from her website or from Paradise Books in Vincent Street, Daylesford.

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