Some of you may have noticed small mounds of sand ranging 5” to 7” wide and 2” to 3” high on some lawns, fields and pastures. No, they’re not baby Pocket Gophers! They’re Florida Deep Digger Scarab Beetles! There’s no need to worry. This particular species does not feed on the roots of grass, unlike the dreaded white grubs which grow up to be May/June Beetles, Masked Chafers or Green June Beetles.
Deep Diggers are unique insects because they are Winter breeders. From November through March, you can see their mounds in sparse sandy lawns throughout our service area, especially in sandhill type habitats. Strangely enough, they do not occur in the Panhandle, though.
During mating season, the female digs a burrow that goes straight down to depths between four and ten feet. I bet you’re thinking, that’s incredible! At the end of the burrow, she constructs a cell at a 90° angle. She then packs the cell with organic debris such as leaf litter, acorns and pine straw. She will lay one egg in the cell. The larva will feed off the debris until it’s all consumed and then enter into the pupal stage. It takes nearly one year to complete its life cycle! Now that’s profound, hence its scientific name, Peltotrupes profundus.
In Florida, we have two species of Deep Diggers. We have the Florida Deep Digger and the Ocala Deep Digger. The Ocala Deep Digger has a limited range in isolated parts of Sand Pine habitats in the Ocala National Forest.
If you want to try your luck at finding one of these shining blue or blue/green jewels, here’s what to do. Find a mound and clear the debris from around the perimeter. The actual hole is not in the center of the mound, but on the edge of the mound. The beetle crawls out of the hole in the ground and enters another hole at the base of the mound. It actually pushes the dirt to the center of the mound and up the middle. That’s why some mounds are several inches high. Move your hand slowly through the mound and if you’re lucky you may find one in the mound. If you find one, admire it for its beauty and then release it back where you found it. Now, go try to find one!