When is a Cockroach not a Cockroach? When it’s a Cockchafer Previous item Un-snug the Bug in Your... Next item Wasp Pest Control - The...

When is a Cockroach not a Cockroach? When it’s a Cockchafer

The cockchafer, also known as the May bug, Billy Witch, or Doodlebug is a big, noisy, flying beetle.

There are two species of cockchafer in the UK; the common Cockchafer (Melolontha Melolontha) found in the south of England, and the northern Cockchafer (Melolontha Hippocastani) found in northern England, Scotland, and Ireland.

The Life Cycle of the Cockchafer

After emerging in late April or early May, the adults live for around five to seven weeks.

Females begin to lay around 60 to 80 eggs in the ground after about two weeks. The location of egg laying depends on the species; the common cockchafer lays eggs in fields, whereas its northern counterpart favours areas populated with trees, hence its colloquial name of “Forest Cockchafer”. Oak leaves are the preferred food source for adults. Larvae hatch after four to six weeks, and feed on plant roots.

The Life Cycle of the Cockchafer

Cockchafer Life Cycle

Their development in the earth can take up to five years in colder climates.  Once they have grown to 4-5cm they pupate and develop into adults. Due to the long development period of the cockchafer, they tend to appear in cycles of every three or four years, which varies depending on region.

Identifying a Cockchafer

This beetle was given its colloquial name of “May bug” as the adults begin to appear in late springtime, around May, so you may see a cockchafer at this time of year.

Whilst both species are brown in colour, they do have distinguishing features.

The common cockchafer is around 25-30mm in length, slightly larger than the northern cockchafer, which reaches around 20-25mm in length.

These two species can also be differentiated by their differently shaped tail ends; the common cockchafer has a slender, longer tail end, whereas the northern variety’s tail end is shorter and knob-shaped.

Cockroach or Cockchafer?

Before considering how to deal with beetles, it is advisable to know exactly what kind of insect you are dealing with!

At Avon Pest Control, we receive calls from confused homeowners who think they have sighted a cockroach in their homes, when in fact they have seen a slightly lost cockchafer.

The best way to tell the difference between these two is to pay close attention to the antennae.


Cockroaches have long, swept back antennae in contrast to the cockchafer whose antennae is short, fanned, and forward facing.  The male cockchafer has seven “leaves” on each antenna, and the female has six.

Are Cockchafers Harmful like Cockroaches?

Cockroaches move from sewers, to drains, and into spaces populated by humans, contaminating any surfaces they encounter. They carry bacteria such as salmonella, staphylococcus, and streptococcus and cause food poisoning, making them dangerous to humans.

The cockchafer, on the other hand, is harmless. The sharp point found at the tip of a cockchafer’s abdomen is not a sting, but a harmless pygidium used by females to push the eggs into soil. The larvae is considered an agricultural pest, which in large numbers can damage crops, but they pose no direct threat to human health.

If you need help identifying a Cockroach from a harmless Cockchafer, look no further! Call Avon Pest Control today 01926 632 929 or 01789 293 463 or click here to visit or website for more information on our services.

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