Dear LAist: Where Have All The June Bugs Gone?

A member of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources holds a June bug (STEPHEN MORTON/AP)

WE'RE ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS ABOUT SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA THAT KEEP YOU UP AT NIGHT. IF YOU HAVE ONE, ASK IT HERE.


You may be familiar with the sound; a buzz, followed by the whizzing thwack of tiny wings smacking into a glass pane. Yes! It's the very specific racket of a beetle careening into your window on a warm summer's eve.

Whether you consider them an annoyance or a delightful harbinger of hot, beer-soaked nights, LAist reader Nicolas wrote in to let us know that in recent summers, he's been missing these little fellas:

"Growing up in the late 80s-90s, I remember the June bugs that would fly into our homes and bang into windows or ceiling fans as they tried to find their way out. It happened every June like clockwork but I haven't seen them in years. Why?"

It's tough to say why this is happening to you, Nicolas, but before we launch into our answer, a slight correction: According to James Hogue, the manager of biological collections in the department of biology at California State University, Northridge, the bugs we see in California that display this behavior are not June bugs in the traditional sense.

"[June bugs] are more typically eastern insects, and people that came here started using the same name for similar beetles," he said via email.

June bugs belong to the genus Phyllophaga, whereas our local porch-dwelling, ceiling-fan-hitting, summer evening beetles are part of the same family - the Scarabaeidae family, specifically - but belong to the genera Serica, Phobetus and Cyclocephala.

An easy mistake to make.

With that said, Hogue tells us that our local Scarabaeidae haven't seen a decrease in their ranks.

"I don't know of any real evidence of decline in the number of these beetles in our area," he said via email. "Populations rise and fall with environmental conditions."

Given that Southern California has only recently come out of a record-breaking drought, it's possible that we're currently in a time of low beetle production; Hogue added that their larvae develop in soil, so "abnormally dry soil ought to lead to poorer recruitment."

Which in turn may lead, temporarily, to fewer beetle TKOs against innocent-seeming window panes.