Common Cockchafer

Common Cockchafer ©Nick Upton/2020VISION

Common cockchafer

Scientific name: Melolontha melolontha
The common cockchafer, or 'May Bug', can often be seen swarming around street lights in spring. Larvae live underground for years, emerging as adults together. Listen out for the characteristic buzzing sound these big, brown beetles make.

Species information


Length: 3.5cm

Conservation status


When to see

May to July


The common cockchafer is a large, brown beetle found in parks and gardens, grassland and woodland. Common cockchafer larvae live underground for several years as they develop, eating the roots of grasses and other plants. In May and June, the adults emerge from the soil, often swarming around treetops. They can be seen at dusk and in the evenings, and are attracted to street lights and lighted windows. They will also turn up in moth traps, sometimes in large numbers.

How to identify

The common cockchafer is the UK's largest scarab beetle (scarabs include dung beetles and chafers). With its rusty-brown wing cases, pointed 'tail' and fan-like antennae it is unmistakeable. It is a clumsy flier and makes a buzzing sound.


Widespread, but rarer in the north.

Did you know?

The common cockchafer is also commonly known as the 'May Bug' due to its habitat of emerging in large numbers during spring.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts manage many nature reserves for the benefit of the wildlife they support. You can help by supporting your local Trust and becoming a member; you'll find out about exciting wildlife news, events on your doorstep and volunteering opportunities, and will be helping local wildlife along the way.