When a beetle bumps into a train; help The Source identify this insect!

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I was riding the Gold Line home last Thursday, my head resting comfortably against the window when something big and green and black bumped into the window as we pulled into Del Mar station. That certainly woke me up. I thought it was either a mutant bee or perhaps a locust or cicada, neither of which I could recall ever encountering in Southern California.

Then yesterday I’m walking my dog in Memorial Park in Pasadena — next door to the Gold Line tracks — and I come upon this lil’ dude who looks suspiciously like the thing that buzzed my train. When I got too close, the thing took off and buzzed around, so it can definitely fly.

Here’s my question for any transit-oriented entomologists out there: What the heck is it? Is this thing a native? Some quick googling leads me to think it may be a rose chafer, which is apparently common in Europe but present throughout the U.S. Is this correct, people?

UPDATE: Metro’s Twitter followers believe this is a Green June beetle, which is a native to the eastern U.S.

UPDATE #2: Strong evidence is emerging this is not a Green June beetle, but a Figeater beetle. From Ralph on our comment board: “Cotinis nitida (Green June Beetle) is not found west of Texas (other than a single report in Az.), however, Cotinis mutabilis (Figeater Beetle) is known to range in the Southwestern US & Mexico. I have seen them in my yard as well, feeding on our, (you guessed it) Fig Tree. I’m not sure whether the measurements are on body only or include leg length, but some in our yard are definetely longer than the 23 mm listed for C. nitida, again making the case for this being a C. mutabilis.”

17 replies

  1. It is a scarab beetle. Had about 20 in each of my compost bins over the weekend (I left open the top, and they were mostly gone the next day). They hatch from grubs that tend to live in compost or in the ground eating decaying matter. They hatch into these large iridescent noisy beetles. From what I’ve read, they aren’t harmful and are part of the cycle of decay.

    • I think Erica is correct. Looks most like the Green June beetle. Perhaps they like the many parts of So Cal that look like the eastern U.S.?

      Erik: thanks for the Reddit suggestion. I’ll try it to get a definitive answer!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  2. I am from Jalisco Mexico, when I was a child we used to cach this type of insects and attach a string to their head and play with it. Or sometimes we let fly free with the string attached and it was much easier to catch it next time. We called this insect “Mayates” because you can only find them in the month of May. The official name is “Figeater beetle”

  3. Our nex-door neighbor had a fig tree, but he never picked the figs and they would rot on the tree. You would find DOZENS of these beetles feasting on the rotted figs. Disturb them, and your punishment would be the racket they made when they scattered.

  4. Steve,
    From reading the links posted above, it may be time for another update: Cotinis nitida (Green June Beetle) is not found west of Texas (other than a single report in Az.), however, Cotinis mutabilis (Figeater Beetle) is known to range in the Southwestern US & Mexico. I have seen them in my yard as well, feeding on our, (you guessed it) Fig Tree. I’m not sure whether the measurements are on body only or include leg length, but some in our yard are definately longer than the 23 mm listed for C. nitida, again making the case for this being a C. mutabilis. Regards,

    • Hey Ralph —

      Thanks. I was confusing the Green and the Figeater — thanks for clarifying and I will update the post!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

  5. After looking on wikipedia, this looks to be a figeater beetle, the june bug of the eastern US had white face and the one in your picture has a green face, just like the wikipedia picture of a figeater. However the figeater is also known as a june bug, and this is what I have called them up to today. I see these all the time, especially in the summer time,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Figeater_beetle

    eastern US “june bug”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotinis_nitida

    A good exhibit I can recommend is at the natural history museum, (at expo park station, expo line) downstairs were they keep the newt. It tells about the different native and introduced animals in the county, and tells about the parrots, spiders, and squirrels, so you can see if they are native or not.

  6. I suggest you email your question and photo to the Natural History Museum in Exposition Park – conveniently Metro-accessible!

  7. When I was a kid in the SGV, we always called these “Chinese beetles”. There were always a lot in El Monte.