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Country diary: A maybug wedding on the doorstep – The Guardian

1 minute, 48 seconds Read

It begins with a battering at the glass, as if someone is flinging gravel. Someone wanting me, calling me outside into the night. I willingly go. But first I turn off the porch light. I’d wondered if they would come this year, and as soon as I open the door, the distinctive drone of a heavy insect zooms in and it collides with my hair.

I have walked, seemingly invited, into a maybug’s June wedding. Here are the cockchafers, our largest chafer beetles, also known as doodlebugs (from which the German V-1 bombs got their name in the second world war). Disentangling the hook and combs of its legs from a ringlet of hair is a careful process and given the extremely loud buzz, its 3cm size and a thorn-like appendage, actually an egg-laying “pygidium”, I’d be forgiven for reacting differently, particularly as another hits my chin and falls down my top.

But I love a cockchafer and as it crawls up towards the light, I admire it. Most striking are the trembling, fox-fur fans of feathers on each antenna, in a silver-furred face. These projections of luxuriant false eyelashes around such big dark eyes lend a Marlene Dietrich glamour. I unhook its hind legs from my bra and try to hold it in one hand. It pushes against my closed fingers with the insistence needed to push through soil, after four or more years in the dark as a grub.

Sensing freedom, it separates its hard wing cases, like two halves of a nut, unfurls amber film-roll wings and lifts off like a clumsy chinook.

In the briefly held light of my torch, I can see them flying around the top of the oak. The females settle to eat leaves, but the tree releases green leaf volatiles in response to this stress, acting as an attractant to the males. The field edge is bridal with waterfall-veils of hawthorn plunging into a lacy froth of cow parsley. I can hear more zooming up from the pasture in the horses’ field, causing them to start and snort. A big cream-pot of a moon rises through the oak leaves.

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