What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: They are devouring my figs!
Location: San Diego County, CA
August 5, 2014 12:15 pm
Dear Bugman
My young fig tree was going to have a big crop of figs – until these guys arrived! We live on 3 acres in northern San Diego County, CA, mild weather, etc.
I have spent HOURS looking online, but still haven’t found anything quite like them. I don’t think they are Japanese beetles, but that’s as close as I can come. I believe that they attack fruit that has had a bird peck at it, but once that happens, they are voracious.
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for your time,
Signature: Kathy

African Painted Bugs eat Figs!!!

African Painted Bugs eat Figs!!!

Hi Kathy,
When we read your subject line and saw the title of your digital image “BIG beetles”
, we thought for certain we were going to be responding that you have Figeaters, which fly in Southern California in August.  These are not big beetles, but rather, small Stink Bugs, African Painted Bugs, Bagrada hilaris, to be more exact.  We first encounted African Painted Bugs in our own garden in 2009 on kale and collard greens, and we learned at the time that this was a new invasive, exotic species that was just discovered in Southern California.  Several months later we predicted that:  “If there are no known predators, the African Painted Bugs might become a very serious agricultural pest in California.”  Most literature we read indicated that the African Painted Bugs prefer members of the cabbage family, including the kale and collard greens in our garden, but in 2010, we received a report from Arizona that African Painted Bugs were found on figs.  In 2011, the African Painted Bugs made the Los Angeles Times.  You should be able to locate significantly more information on the AFrican Painted Bugs now than we found back in 2009, and we still maintain that this is probably the biggest threat to agriculture in Southern California in recent memory.  African Painted Bugs have also been reported on citrus on the island of Cyprus.  We rid our garden of African Painted Bug by ripping out the kale and collard greens, but sadly, that is not an option with your fig tree.  Good luck with this scourge.

Daniel, I fear that you are dead on in your diagnosis!  My “BIG bugs” tag referred to the size of the photo: I had significantly enlarged it.  Now that I have a name I will do more research.  Thank you soooo much!

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: San Diego, California

3 Responses to African Painted Bugs eat Figs!!!

  1. Temple Willoughby says:

    I bet you could get them to stop eating the figs if you sprayed neem oil on your tree/fruit.

    It doesn’t kill the bugs – it just makes them not want to be there …neem is very bitter.

    It smells like peanut-butter-garlic.

    It’s non-toxic to the plants/pets/people …it’s actually good for our skin when diluted.


    • bugman says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. Would the bitterness be transferred to the flavor of the figs? Peanunt Butter/Garlic Figs do not sound very appetizing. Though generally we do not promote the extermination of insects, we are much less tolerant of invasive species, and the African Painted Bug is destined to become a serious problem. Any information on non-toxic means of eliminating them would be greatly appreciated. Discouraging them from eating the figs may just cause them to move to another plant.

  2. Temple Willoughby says:

    Interestingly enough, “The “father of India,” Mahatma Gandhi (1869 to 1948), ate boiled neem leaf chutney for its health benefits.”

    All you would need to do is wash the neem oil off and they would be good to go.

    I spray my orange trees to keep the spiders off – and it works.

    Read more: The History of the Neem Tree | Garden Guides http://www.gardenguides.com/90131-history-neem-tree.html#ixzz39ZezjX1u

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