Why is Hoplia philanthus called the Welsh chafer?

Welsh chafer (Hoplia philanthus) on Miscanthus

It seems to be a bumper year for chafers of all types. 

The emergence of these beetles always seems like a blessing to the birds who flock to devour them with gusto and to take them back to their greedy broods.  In the garden, they are a favourite fast food for blackbirds and even dunnocks and robins are happy to have a go at them, although they make a mighty mouthful for those little guys. 

Out in the fields and down on the dunes the air is literally buzzing with the little beetles and flocks of gulls, rooks, jackdaws and crows are making the most of them.

So, I got to wondering, why is the Welsh chafer so called?  The fab interactive map provided by the National Biodiversity Network (http://www.searchnbn.net/imt/?mode=SPECIES&species=NHMSYS0001718473) shows that they are not particularly prevalent in Wales, and indeed are widespread throughout England.  And descriptions of their life habit state that they prefer sandy soils – which aren’t that abundant in Wales.  So far, I haven’t been able to find the answer.

In general, these chafers are not a serious pest.  The bumbling adults will chomp on the edges of almost any vegetation, but they’re not around for long and don’t really do much damage (especially if the birds have their way).  Sometimes, but not usually, the grubs which develop in the soil and munch on plant roots, especially grasses, can be a bit of a nuisance, but on balance, if possible, try to leave the birds to sort them out.  They emerge just when the birds need a hearty feed for their hungry broods.

Also, beware if you pick a Welsh chafer up for a closer look, they are very quick to sink their jaws into anything that comes their way, including fingers.  It doesn’t really hurt, but it is quite a shock to feel the little guy chomping down on you and it will then hang tenaciously from wherever it has sunk its jaws!


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