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Swarming scarab beetles (spring beetles)

An image of scarab beetles causing defoliation in a Eucalypt

In high densities, swarming scarab beetles can cause defoliation in eucalypt canopies.

An image of scarab beetles feeding on a eucalypt seedling

Swarming scarab beetles (Atomolus spp.) feeding on a eucalypt seedling.

General information

Swarming scarab beetles (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae), can be important pests in young eucalypt plantations. Several species are pests in Queensland, including Automolus spp., Liparetrus spp. and Epholcis bilobiceps. Because the beetles feed in swarms, they can cause severe defoliation and/or dieback of the growing tips of young trees. They are also known as spring beetles because most damage occurs in spring to early summer when the adults emerge in southeastern Queensland.

Scientific name

Automolus species, Liparetrus species and Epholcis bilobiceps

  • easily recognised by the characteristic shape of the head, which has two strongly projecting lobes at the front
  • Automolus species are reddish brown, 4-5 mm long with elytra (wing covers) covering the abdomen and short body hairs
  • Liparetus species are light brown, 5-7 mm long with short elytra and long body hairs on the end of the abdomen
  • Automolus species are active during daylight; Liparetus are active at night.
  • south east Queensland.
  • spotted gum (C. citriodora subsp. variegata)
  • rose gum and hybrids
  • Dunn's white gum
  • western white gum
  • Gympie messmate.
  • adult beetles feed on young eucalypt foliage and shoots creating characteristic jagged leaf edges
  • swarms of feeding beetles can cause defoliation and dieback in growing tips
  • early season growth may be reduced and apical dominance may be delayed
  • larvae live in the soil where they can feed on the roots of improved pasture grasses, turf and decaying organic matter.

Further information

Last updated 16 October 2012