Common cockchafer

Common Cockchafer

Common Cockchafer ©Nick Upton/2020VISION

Common cockchafer

Scientific name: Melolontha melolontha
This large, brown beetle can be seen swarming around streetlights in spring. They live underground as larvae for years and emerge as adults often in large numbers. Listen for their characteristic buzzing sound.

Species information


Length: 3.5cm

Conservation status


When to see

May to July


The common cockchafer is also known as a May bug as they often emerge as adults during the month of May. They are large, brown beetles who spend the first few years of their lives as larvae underground. They mostly come out after the sun has set and can be seen flying around streetlights and lighted windows. If you have a moth trap, you may also find a few of these stumble in, attracted to the bright light.

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.