Rose chafer (Cetonia Aurata) larvae: new home across the border and the value of a curious mind

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My favourite thing in the whole world are science projects of any kind (including cooking).  As  a child I collected rat’s bones from the stream’s borders near our house and tried to figure out which bit went where.  I remember my enthusiasm when I saw my first petri dish with bacteria cultures from our fingerprints. Maybe thats why I don’t mind bathing in nematodes :). My favourite science demonstration is still the one with the magnet and the metal filings, shame there isn’t something similar that works on groups of people.

So after having learnt a lot about rose chafer (cetonia aurata) development I am very sad to say that I recently delivered my 30 larva to my friends big compost heap.

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I have since discovering the Cetonia aurata larvae, suspecting them of being June bugs, condemning them to death before identifying them and learning that they are compost benefactors discovered many things, some more, some less obscure, or indeed useful e.g. how to identify a larva by way of it’s anal opening.  I also now know how nematodes work when used as a biological agent to eradicate larva. And through looking after the larva I know what they need to survive and thrive.  In the photo in my earlier blog you can see dark larva, and skinny larva (dehyrated and unhappy) and one very white big fat one (healthy).  Through regularly observing a single (reference) larva sequestered in it’s own pot, I learned what conditions it needs to do well: 1) make sure soil is not too dry water pots if necessary 2) make sure there is adequate organic matter, I added root cuttings, and how to know when it is doing well 3) each larva produces lots of small, black faecal pellets.

And when I confessed my love of experiments to Maria – she told me I could weigh them to see how they are developing, sadly I already gave them a new home before I could do it. Apparently each larva weighs in at a whopping 2g and currently they are putting on lots of weight before going in to hibernation (information Maria Fremlin, again :)). More learnings.

Initially my larvae were dehydrated, they looked thin and wrinkly, after watering the pots and adding extra organic matter they put on weight. They also became very feisty   identifiable through an increase in their speed-while-wriggling-on-back. A happy larva is plump,  has a nice sheen to it, no wrinkles, a good white colour. 🙂 and moves when prodded. And when it’s exposed to the elements, ie when put in compost,  it rapidly wriggles on its back vanishing from sight almost immediately.

So my experiment is now thriving on Landkrauter’s compost heap and I will need to find a new hobby.

Even if you don’t share my fascination for biology experiments, and you have never marvelled at the world through the eyes of babes, I cannot believe anyone is immune to the wonder of the following sequence:

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Until my next obsession I may well now be posting photographs of the bad summer we are having :).

Photo of rose chafer beetle used in above collage:  Pippa, Corfe Mullen, Dorset http://www.whatsthatbug.com/2009/05/21/rose-chafer-from-england/

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