As tinsel and fairy lights are decked around your house, there’s another delight that may be decorating your garden in December, especially if you have a gum tree in the back yard or nearby: Christmas beetles.
These are the most gorgeous little creatures, with their exoskeleton shimmering in luminous gold and brown colours, or electrifying greens and pinks. In northern parts of Australia, they come in vibrant, opalescent violets.
But over recent years there has been a dark side to these bright, little things. Having spent the best part of the year underground as larvae, they swarm out of their long slumber hungry for both food and a mate.
And the best place for both of these is your gum tree. Their natural habitat is grassy woodland but, because of more and more land clearing - which can leave just a few lonely gums dotted about new housing estates - they can end up congregating on just one tree.
During late November and early December, until they lay their eggs for the next season’s brood and their life cycle is complete, they will be in a feeding frenzy.
Yes, there’s a good chance they will devour many of your gum’s leaves, leaving it a little undressed, but they prefer only the mature leaves, ignoring the fresh new growth, which then take on the responsibility of photosynthesis.
If you’re worried this annual partying will cause damage or stress to your tree in the long term, just hose them off (they don’t have a good grip of the leaves) so they fall onto a plastic sheet placed under the tree and take them to a nearby native woodland.
Or plant another gum to help spread the load. You just can’t have enough jewels in the garden, especially at Christmas time.