Where Are All The Christmas Beetles This Year?
There's something missing in the Sydney region as we hit the Christmas countdown crunch time.
The scourge -- or delight, if you're that kind of person -- of Christmas beetles flying into your house, and promptly dying, is missing.
Where are all the little suckers flying in through the screen door you left open (again), only to be nosed at by a dog?
It's not the first time we've seen this occurrence. Dr Chris Reid, an entomologist at the Australian Museum in Sydney, said Christmas beetle numbers have been in decline for some time, with a particular drop over the past three to four years.
Reid told 10 daily that about a decade ago he'd been able to "fill a bucket easily" with the Christmas beetles near his house alone.
"Now, I'm seeing one or two," he said.
Reid attributed this to a number of drier-than-usual winters, which might hurt the soil habitat where larvae spend the first few years of their life.
"Probably everyone's forgotten since we've had so much rain recently, with a very dry winter and an early spring," he told 10 daily.
"I think it's possibly killing the larvae."
The other reason he thinks we might be seeing fewer of these guys is that their main breeding area in western Sydney has been built over.
"A hundred years ago, people were seeing so many beetles around Sydney harbour that branches full of beetles were hanging into the water," he said.
"I've never seen that."
It's not all bad news, though: Christmas beetle populations can vary massively by region, with Reid spotting "loads" on a recent trip to Orange in central-west NSW.
If you are lucky enough to spot any of these critters, you're most likely going to be looking at a washerwoman -- a relatively small, "dull, dowdy thing", most likely on the outskirts of Sydney -- or else a Queen Beetle, a large species with green-ish black feet.
And if you want to encourage Christmas beetles to thrive?
"Don't use pesticides. And have a garden."
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