I believe this is an Oriental Beetle (Anomala orientalis) sniffing my sock. And guess what? It's introduced! This species is often compared to the Japanese Beetle, another introduced defoliating pest. The Oriental Beetle seems to be overlooked both by its lack of flashy color as an adult, and the lack of damage done as an adult. One .pdf even says the adult doesn't eat! While I'm not going to come out and directly accuse it of the crime, there were two on our tomato plants this afternoon, on freshly chomped tomato leaves. Other references mention that the adult might eat rose blossoms.
Apparently the real damage is done while in larval form as a grub. The larva eats grass roots, causing brown patches in lawns. We don't have much of a lawn, but I'll have to note whether there are any brown patches. I'm starting to get the feeling that whatever I decide to investigate ends up being invasive, so maybe our grass is too! Wouldn't be surprised! I often hear of people who want to use "native grasses" in their landscaping, leading me to believe that lawns aren't native to the Northeast. Where would they be native? Well-kept lawns seem too homogenous and high-maintenance. Questions for another time I suppose.
Of course, the onus on any introduced/"invasive" species is on the introducer. Erk. I guess that would be us, the humans. I'm not one to go off the deep end and say everyone needs to live off the grid, or deny themselves modern necessities or anything, but does anyone really need a lawn? Honestly, I don't really go on my lawn except to mow it. So if a beetle crossed an ocean and a continent because someone wanted an ornamental lily and then it started taking advantage of the great swaths of maintained bluegrass that feuding neighbors were keeping up for the sake of appearance, I have to reserve judgment as to whether it truly qualifies as a pest. It sometimes seems as if people only deal with the consequences of what they need to do, not what they simply want to do. Apologies for the unfocused post.
Anomala orientalis - Oriental Beetle
photos © 2009 Bennet Porter