Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration. Families come together to enjoy the company of those they may not have seen in a while and diets are chucked out the window in favour of the rich seasonal foods one can only sample at this time of year. Christmas can also be a time where romance rains supreme, prompting the kind of sex that is hurried, intense, and frequent. On the surface, Christmas is a holiday cherished as a time for family and giving, but make no mistake, it is also a time for gluttony and lust. One particular family that embraces these two deadly sins are the Anoplognathus family, that’s right, the bloody Christmas beetles.
I remember Christmas two years ago not by the people I spent it with, but by the sheer volume of Christmas beetles that decimated my poor eucalyptus trees. A report from the State Forests of New South Wales says that Christmas beetles feed on trees as adults for the duration of their mating season, particularly favouring eucalyptus foliage. This report also says that upon emerging from the ground, these beetles form swarms to find food and breeding sites and that the females can lay 20 to 40 eggs each. No wonder my gum trees died.
Sydney Morning Herald writer Deborah Smith talks about the prolific number of Christmas beetles in the 1920’s within the Sydney area, saying that the weight of the insects on tree branches around the harbour foreshore areas caused the branches to dip into the water. I don’t live in Sydney, but I do live in an open woodland area where Dr. Chris Reid of the Australian Museum says Christmas beetles prefer to feed and mate. Smith also writes that Christmas beetles appear at Christmas because of the summer rains which soften the ground so they can dig free of the soil. She goes on to write that if a lot of rain falls throughout the year, then they can drown in the boggy soil. If you have issues with the Christmas beetles you better pray for rain.
For those who want to protect their trees from being eaten to death, there is really no point. “By the time you see a Christmas beetle, they are almost at the end of their life cycle, having spent a whole year as a soil-eating grub,” Nicole says, “It would not be advisable using pesticide to get rid of these insects… in any case, these insects are seasonal and the infestation does not last long.” If you do want to try to do something about your Christmas beetles this year, then you can always follow Nicole’s suggestion. Lay a sheet below your tree and spray the beetles with water to dislodge them, shake the tree for good measure and collect the beetles in the sheet before disposing of them. Should we let the Christmas beetles glutton and lust this coming Christmas? I for one will commit the sin of murder if it will keep my newly planted eucalypts alive.