A scarab-type beetle, spread all across Europe. By British standards they're big, noisy and knobbly. They're absolutely harmless to people but the larvae, which eat roots, are an agricultural pest.

As larvae (fat white underground grubs) they last 3-5 years. As adults they last a few months.

In my kitchen, brought in and mangled by my cats, the one we had last week lasted less than ten minutes (and I was very glad).

They're not the same as cockroaches. The easiest way to tell the difference is that they're smaller, louder, and have very pointy backsides. They're sort of brown-grey with red-orange bits, about 3 cm long, chunky, and have knobbly legs and antennae.

The cockchafer was also a Victorian-era device in prisons used as a form of punishment. It was basically a specially-built treadmill, from which the unfortunate bastard on it could not escape.

As I understand the device, think of a paddle-wheel on a steamboat. Now imagine trying to walk up that endlessly turning wheel. That's the cockchafer.

I first read about the device in Crichton's "The Great Train Robbery".

Cock"chaf`er (?), n. [See Chafer the beetle.] Zool.

A beetle of the genus Melolontha (esp. M. vulgaris) and allied genera; -- called also May bug, chafer, or dorbeetle.


© Webster 1913.

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