Gray Matter


The Palo Verde Beetle Is Harmless to Humans

RT Cunningham | February 28, 2021 (UTC) | Pests

palo verde beetleThe palo verde beetle (Derobrachus hovorei) may be harmless, but it’s high up on the “ick factor” scale. It has to be, otherwise watching my sisters freak out when we were young was a complete waste of time.

Dealing With Thousands of Palo Verde Beetles

I don’t know much about these large beetles, but I’m sure I could find more information than I found on Wikipedia elsewhere. The article says the “grubs” can live underground for as many as three years. I think it’s longer. In the 13 years I lived in my parents’ home, I only saw them come out of the ground once. They left holes in the ground approximately an inch across.

The one summer that the beetles came out, they numbered in the thousands. I’m not exaggerating. The funny thing is, we didn’t have any palo verde trees anywhere near us. We only had elm, palm and chinaberry (one) trees on our two city lots. All the elm trees fell over during storms over the course of about 10 years. My father later planted mulberry and spruce trees. Irrigation from the nearby reservoir was inexpensive.

When the beetles came out (sometime between 1968 and 1973), my four brothers and I found whatever we could to swat them out of the sky as they flew past us. We used baseball bats, badminton rackets and rolled up newspapers. They only came out at the beginning of dusk, so we didn’t have long before it became too dark to see them.

My four sisters freaked out whenever they saw one of them up close, like the time one decided to park itself on our oak front door. I don’t remember which sister it was, but she went around to the back of the house to go inside just to avoid the beetle. And I don’t remember which sister had one land on the back of her blouse and hang on, causing her to jump up and down and shriek for more than a minute. Ah, those were the days.

One of Many Fond Memories

That happened in Coolidge, Arizona. It’s a place I never intend to return to, even though I have at least three brothers and one sister still living there. I have other relatives, including nieces and nephews living in areas surrounding the city of Phoenix in Arizona but again, I never intend to return to Arizona, where Phoenix was my home for 12 years before moving to the Philippines in 2006.

The memories of those beetles is something I’ll never forget. If I start forgetting, due to old age or something, I’ll buy the shirt to remind me. I showed my daughter-in-law a picture of a beetle and asked her if she knew what it was. She said “salagubang”, which is Tagalog for “beetle”. Well, duh!

I’m currently stuck in Hawaii with my younger son’s family due to the pandemic. Going home (to Olongapo) isn’t an option, in my opinion, until the arrival restrictions are lifted. The latest restrictions, barring what I recently read, is being tested at the airport and being kept in quarantine for seven days at a nearby hotel. Things like that can get expensive quickly.

I’m not sure if I’m reading the news from the Presidential Communications Operations Office of the Philippines correctly. If I am, it’s up to the barangay (the lowest administrative district) government where I live to determine what kind of restrictions should be in place. I’m crossing my fingers and toes and hoping to be home in a month or so.

Photo Attribution: Reddit

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