One of the visual delights of summer is the new growth on the trees and shrubs. New eucalypt leaves in particular have a soft blue-green colour that I find more pleasing than the colour of the more mature leaves.
So it was with some dismay when walking around the Arb recently that I found a lot of the young vegetation, particularly on the River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) lining the walking track, shredded. You may well ask, ‘What’s eating us at the Arb?’ and the answer would be, ‘At the moment, Christmas Beetles (Anoplognathus sp.).’ (pictured). And the Red Gums are festooned with them.
The larvae of the beetles feed on grass roots but the adults feed on eucalyptus leaves, creating the characteristic jagged ripped pattern (pictured left). These beetles feed in swarms on both the mature and young leaves and can cause extensive damage, particularly to plantations.
I remember as a kid in suburban Melbourne we used to collect these beetles by the handful (and put them down each other’s shirts). I hadn’t seen one in decades. I suspect they have been hiding at the Arb all that time.