As Chris and I sat on the lawn of Gorham’s Bluff basking in the wonders it possessed, we noticed an impressive bug convention going on around us.

Chris watched them reservedly and said “Are these ground bees or something?”

I stared down at them, waiting for one to do a fly-by for me to identify, then squealed with glee.


“They’re JUNE BUGS!!”

He looked at me skeptically.

“Don’t tell me you’ve never tied a string around a June Bug’s leg.”

He scooted over a few inches.

I explained.

Every summer of my childhood, we anxiously awaited the arrival of June Bugs. They never came in June, though, tricky little buggars. They arrived in early July. Upon the first sighting of a glowing green back, we would run in, beg our parents for string, and set out to catch our newly arrived pets.

(It should be noted that our parents were the ones who taught us this skill, so they always had June Bug String around for us to carry on family tradition.)

We chased and chased those stupid bugs – they’re harder to catch than fireflies but easier than a fly would be if perchance anyone ever wanted to catch a fly. But they’re big and nearly incandescent so they’re easy to spot – if only they’d stay in one place for a summer second.

When we caught one, the real struggle began. Unless you’ve ever turned a flying beetle over on its back and tried to hold one of his legs still enough to tie a string around it, you really can’t understand the hardships of my childhood.

But the glory of victory – it was well worth the trial.

As mentioned, June Bugs don’t hold still for long, so once we uprighted our freshly tied new pet, he’d immediately fly away – only to find that he was now an Alabama Kite. He’d fly this way and that, and we’d hold onto our string gleefully as if we were walking our miniature flying dog around the yard.

Finally, he’d get tired and sit down.


I would sit Indian-Style beside him (these were the days before Criss-Cross-Applesauce, obviously) and nudge him with my index finger.

“Fly, Juney! FLY!”

nudge, nudge, nudge.

June Bugs are stubborn creatures, though, and once one realizes that his only path to freedom is to be boring, he will stick at boring like a woodpecker boring through a chimney.

So we’d attempt a leg-untying, which sometimes resulted in a leg being untied and sometimes in a leg amputation, and set off to find his more gullible relative.

June Bugs were greatly anticipated summer fun – right before Lightning Bugs and right after the now-illegal high-dive at the Fraternal Order of Police swimming pool. Until the fateful summer that we had aged enough to observe these June Bugs in their natural environment. And realized that they enjoyed our yard not because of our superior skills in human-insect interaction, but because they ate our dog’s poop.

And let me tell you. Finding out your pet June Bug is actually a second cousin to the Dung Beetle can really ruin the magic of childhood.

But we persisted through our adversities. And replaced our June Bugs with pet rabbits.

…And now Chris thinks I grew up on Mars. Help me out, people – who else had flying-pets-on-a-string when you were a kid?

46 thoughts on “The Summer of June Bugs.

  1. I Did!!
    Where did Chris grow up?
    And at least you had the FOP swimming pool. We had a sprinkler and a Care Bear plastic pool I played in until I was at least 8.

  2. The boys in my family did. After I out grew playing with rolly pollies, I didn’t like playing with bugs any more.

  3. Did not have the pleasure of June bugs. We tied a string around the leg of chameleons and pinned them to our shirts….but then again I’m not from around here. lol

  4. We always detested what we call June bugs and would scream and run away. But our June bugs were brown and not the green you’re describing. Also they fly around and then attach themselves to you and really freak you out. This tradition of hating June bugs was passed down to me from my Mom :) lol

  5. We used to catch dragonflys and playing with Rolly pollies was always a highlight of my summer. I never caught a June bug and tied a string to it though. I don’t even know if Florida gets June bugs.

  6. I think your June bugs must be different from Idaho June bugs. Because the June bugs I know still scare the crap out of me. They hiss (when stuck up your pant leg, for example), and their sticky bellies make them get stuck in your hair (and the rumor was that sometimes they had to be cut out). Even as an adult I have to resist the urge to run when I see one. I don’t want that thing dive-bombing my hair. Haha.

    But! In junior high and high school I had friends who caught and stunned house flies and then tied a long hair around them to make a fly-on-a-leash.

  7. Absolutely! Although I would never tie the strings on the June bug. I just couldn’t. But my Daddy would. And I would squeal if it got close to landing on me!

  8. I never did it myself, but my cousins did it all the time when we visited my grandma’s house. Though what you call June bugs we called Japanese beetles and they LOVED the figs my grandma grew, we could always catch a bunch on the fig tree, and always had to check our figs for them before taking a bite!

    What we called June bugs were much smaller and were of a brown color. They were our version of fireflies in California I’d say….we’d catch them and fill jars before letting them go, or if there were too many our mom let us throw them against the garage door, sometimes they’d fly off and sometimes they’d die, thus decreasing the population. They were super fun and I loved having them crawl across my hand to the tip of my fingers and take flight.

  9. I have never seen a June bug like you have pictured, much less rodeo-d one. I’ve also never seen a firefly. What we call June bugs in New Mexico are much smaller and brown.

  10. The joys of June Bugs!!! Who always arrived in July….so why didn’t we call them “July” Bugs…..I so remember those days… first, the legs are prickly and stickly….but then, once the string is attached, oh what fun in spinning slowly in a circle as it flew round and round!

    Yes, I observed and practiced many leg amputations…..on accident…not on purpose…..lots of joy in one of these little emerald jewels!

  11. YES! We tied string to June Bugs,whirling them above our heads, pinned the end of the string attached to chameleons to our shirts and wore them to school, made fluorescent rings by smearing the squashed bodies of lightening bugs on our fingers, and ……eww……ate rolly pollys I guess life with only 3 TV channels before the internet was desperate. I honestly do not remember one single summer night spent inside. I’m sure I must have at some point, but it’s certainly not memorable..

  12. I saw children doing the flying beetle on a string thing in Mexico with beetles the size of the palm of my hand. The whirring sound they made when flying was so loud and unnerving to me, but it also looked pretty fun for the kids (if not for the beetles). As for June bugs, during my babyhood in Southern Illinois my mother found me on multiple occasions happily munching on them in the yard in my play pen. Now that I know they eat dog dung I feel like bushing my teeth for an extended period of time even now 41 years later. In fact, I need to stop writing this and go and do that now…

  13. Never heard of that! But then I am from Ohio. Maybe it’s a Southern thing. And I grew up in the city, so maybe it’s also a country thing?

  14. We had plenty of June bugs in Chattanooga where I grew up, but we never tied strings to their legs. It was much more cruel in hindsight. We would get out the badminton rackets and see could could hit them the furthest.

  15. Well, no I have never heard of or participated in June-bug wrangling but it sounds like something my 3 yr. old would adore! Makes me want to go try it with him :) Maybe because the girls outnumbered the guys in our house? If my brother had known it existed he would have delighted in it I’m sure! I have a ton of the Japanese beetles b/c of my garden- wonder if they are the same thing you’re referring to?

  16. I never did it since Southern California doesn’t seem to supply the cool bugs – but I have heard of it.

  17. The June bugs we have in California are brown/tan and they creep me out. I run from them, not to them. But I do remember my dad telling me a story about using a beetle for a kite. But it was more along the lines ” I was so poor when I grew up… We tied strings to beetles to use as a kite”. LOL

  18. Weird! The June bugs in California are a light brown, not green. And they arrive in June here! I’ve never seen anyone here tie a June bug to a string, but I have seen people do that to Japanese beetles cause they are much larger.

  19. I have never heard of this! Our June bugs come in late May and they are brown on their backs, not incandescent like yours. I don’t know if I would have done this even as a kid. They always kinda freaked me out. I would catch fireflies (which are usually called lightning bugs up here), and keep them in a washed out peanut butter jar full of grass for one night, then let them free. But no June bugs for me.

  20. We certainly see plenty of June bugs around here, but I’ve never done the string thing (I have heard of it, though). Partly because I hate bugs and the thought of having to get that close to one grosses me out, and partly because my typical interaction with their species involves them buzzing my head and getting caught in my hair. Why they feel the need to dive-bomb my head on the regular is something I will never understand.

  21. I never did this but allll my cousins did! I was too grossed out by bugs to try it….but I watched them do it. :)

  22. YES!! But I only remember them being at the lake and we called them “Fourth of July” bugs because that’s when we always saw them.

  23. I’ve never done it. We do have those pretty green June bugs here in North Alabama, but we have those ugly brown ones, too.

  24. I LOVE June bugs! In Texas growing up I thought they were so pretty and would stare at them. The green iridescent backs always attracted me. I never tied a string to them though…never occurred to me!

  25. Definitely recognize this as a beloved summer pastime. Well, not for me specifically, as I was firmly in the “not touching those things for all the tea in China” camp.

  26. Yep, I’m 64 and grew up around Bham. We did June bug aerobics and leg amputations every July.. We blew in doodle bug holes until they would run for their lives. We played with rolly polleys shooting them like marbles. We played kick the can until dark most summer evenings. We baked mud pies in fruit jar lids and decorated them with crepe myrtle blossoms. We served fake green beans from mimosa trees. And we were scared to death of mad dogs.

  27. Never heard of doing that! I asked my husband if he had, and he said no, but now he wants to try it! He also suggested tying a bottle rocket to its back. Hmm…. maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned it to him! Fly away, june bugs! Fly for your lives!

  28. I have never heard of such a thing. We don’t have very many bugs here in MT that get big enough that you could even tie a string around them. And I had never seen fireflies until I was a teenager…not very common here either. It sounds fun though!

  29. No June bugs for us, but we tied strings around white headed bumble bees. They had to be the ones with the white spot on their heads, because those didn’t sting.

  30. My fella used to do this with ordinary bluebottle flies. We don’t have June Bugs in the UK as far as I know.

  31. I have flown many a Junebug, and played bee tennis, and worn lightening bug rings. God love those bugs….they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in Phoenix…..

  32. I’m almost 60 now, grew up in Virginia. I’ve lived from sea to shining sea & many places between, even overseas. As a child, spent many days catching big green iridescent June bugs (occasionally tying sewing thread around them to make a “Bug kite” & using rolly polleys as balls on a brick to play “pool”, nights catching fireflies/lightening bugs in a mason jar to use as a nightlight. Now, I find myself looking up & reading scientific articles about “Where have they(Insects) gone?”. I never see June bugs anymore & I wonder if I’ll ever have the opportunity to share with my grandchildren any of my favorite childhood pastimes/memories.~sigh~

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *