Saturday, July 21, 2012

FIgeater beetles and wasps and bees, oh my!

Figs are coming in. The tree grows quickly and its fruit production is prodigious. If I don't get out there each day and strip the tree, there will wind up being more fruit than I know what do do with. It is a nice problem to have, after the last couple of years' dearth of edible fruit.

But I don't get out there every day and as a result, the over-ripened fruit gets mushy and then drops to the ground. When it's high noon and hot I don't dare go out there and pick, having to run a gauntlet of wasps, bees and flies feasting on the dropped fruits on the ground.

Today it rained hard for a short while. As the clouds dissipated and the last drips were dropping from the awnings I decided to go out there before the sun came on full hot. I brought my bag and happily sauntered across a freshly rained-upon yard. I got to the fig tree and stopped short. Covering almost every ripe fruit was a cluster of neon green beetles, and buzzing around the ripe fruits on the tree were huge wasps and bees. I had to look carefully at every angle of the fig before I picked it to make sure I wouldn't get stung from some insect that beat me to it first. As I looked around at the scene I also noticed fig-mush. The hard rain must have punctured the softer fruits and dropped what I crassly term "fig poop" over the lower leaves.

As I looked even closer I just got grossed out. The beetles were having an orgy of eating, sometimes clustered up on one another. Ewwww. What is going onnn?

Of course I took a bunch of photos. and I picked my fill of non-bug infested figs, and scurried back into the house. Once again it is proved to me that IN is better than OUT. LOL. I am a techno-geek and not a nature girl that is for sure.

I looked it up. I googled 'fig,' 'beetle' and 'eating'. The Google result was "figeater beetle." I love Google!!

Here is what I learned. It is not a figeater. The American West has the Figeater and the American East has the Green June Beetle, and apparently they are a dickens to tell apart. I believe that since the range of the Green June Beetle is Maine to Georgia that that is what I have on my hands.

Here is info on the (West) figeater from The Firefly Forest blog:

"With their beautiful metallic green coloration, large size (more than 1 inch or 2.5 cm long), and loud, buzzing, bumblebee-like flight, Figeater Beetles (Cotinis mutabilis, formerly C. texana) are some of the most conspicuous beetles found here in the Sonoran Desert. Adult Figeater Beetles emerge in the summertime, and they are especially common during the wetter, more humid summer monsoon season in July and August."

Oklahoma State Etymology Department says of the Green June Beetle:
"Adult beetles damage fruit by feeding on ripening fruits. Beetles gain entry into undamaged fruits by gouging with the horn on the front of the head, then feed on the flesh of the fruit. Several beetles may bury themselves entirely in a ripe peach. Their odor and excrement ruins most pieces of fruit they visit even if feeding damage is not severe. "

Makes me want to run out and collect a bunch more! Not.

Now the fun part, the photos!! Click on them for larger view. I named the .jpg Figeater before I learned that it is a Green June Beetle. I'm too lazy to re-save them all under a new name. You were warned.

Mr Busy Bee:

 Green June Beetle having a feast. His mouth is full!
 It's a party!

As I watched this guy he used his front leg to move the entire pile of fig mush closer to his mouth. Glutton!

There were flies, Green June Beetles, flies, and I think larva on their underbelly. Ew.

Hey, guys, leave some for me!

Phew, flowers. Now that's pretty.

A rose from the bush. There are always one or two blooming. Ahhh, so nice.

Lesson #1: Always look before you pluck the fruit
Lesson #2: Always take your camera out with you. I had to go back in and get mine. Fortunately the bugs were too soporific with gluttony to have flown off. If it was a bird, I would have missed it.


little artist said...

I believe what you pictured as a rose is actually a gardenia. Does it have a sweet strong fragrance?

Elizabeth Prata said...

Hi little artist,

It very well could be a gardenia...I don't know. The lady who used to live on the property did have rose bushes so I assumed this was a rose bush too. I don't have a sense of smell so I don't know if the fragrance is strong or not... but thanks for letting me know about the correct identification :)