Adults of the white grub beetle Dasylepida ishigakiensis Niijima et Kinoshita (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae) emerge from the soil around dusk for mating on subtropical islands. The present study examines the factors controlling the emergence of males in the laboratory. There are two steps involved. Standby behaviour (i.e. insect head appears at the soil surface) can be observed for several hours before the beetles actually emerge for mating. The standby behaviour is facilitated by warm conditions, although the proportion of standby individuals is influenced not only by the temperature on that day, but also by that on the previous day. Experiments in which beetles are exposed to photoperiod and thermoperiod combinations, in and out of phase, show that temperature is more important in inducing standby and emerging behaviour than light alone. For the second step, factors such as temperature, light and the presence of the female sex pheromone determine whether males will leave the standby position and emerge onto the ground. The female sex pheromone stimulates standby beetles to exhibit emerging and wing vibration behaviours, although the effect depends on when it is presented to beetles. Beetles burrow back into the soil; this behaviour is influenced by illumination and time of the day but not by temperature. The results suggest that D. ishigakiensis possesses a sophisticated mechanism controlling male emergence from the soil.