Are Figeater Beetles Blind? Unveiling the Truth About Their Vision

Figeater beetles, belonging to the Scarab family, are known for their striking green color and attraction to ripe fruit, particularly figs.

While these insects play a crucial role in our ecosystem, a common question arises: are figeater beetles blind?

The answer lies in their ability to perceive light and locate food sources. Although figeater beetles may not have the sharpest vision compared to other insects, they are not entirely blind.

They rely on their sense of smell to locate the ripe fruits that they feed on. Understanding the sensory abilities of figeater beetles is essential, as this knowledge helps us appreciate their contribution to the ecosystem.

Figeater beetle, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Understanding Figeater Beetles

Scientific Classification

Figeater beetles (Cotinis mutabilis) are a species of scarab beetles that belong to the family Scarabaeidae. They are also called green fruit beetles or western green June beetles.

Physical Characteristics

These beetles have an iridescent green color, making them visually striking. Some key features of figeater beetles include:

  • Oval shape
  • Stout body
  • Clubbed antennae with segments that press tightly together

Habitat and Distribution

Figeater beetles are predominantly found in the southwest region of the United States, including California. They are also present in Mexico and other parts of the southwestern United States. These beetles tend to inhabit areas with:

  • Desert trees
  • Ripe fruits
  • Decaying organic matter

They are active from late spring through early fall and overwinter as larvae, going through one generation per year. During this time, they may occasionally be a pest for ripe fruits.

Comparison of Figeater Beetles and Red/Confused Flour Beetles:

FeatureFigeater BeetleRed/Confused Flour Beetle
Scientific NameCotinis mutabilisTribolium castaneum / Tribolium confusum
AntennaeClubbed, segments tightly togetherClub-like, three-segmented (red) or four-segmented (confused)
ColorIridescent greenRust-red (red) or dark brown (confused)
HabitatSouthwest United States, MexicoFlour mills, grain storage facilities
Activity and DistributionLate spring through early fallThroughout the year
Pest StatusOccasional pest of ripe fruitsPest of stored grain and flour products

Life Cycle and Behavior

Diet and Feeding Habits

Figeater beetles are known for their fondness for ripe fruit, especially soft ones like figs. They also consume nectar, pollen, and petals from flowers, helping to diversify their diet.

Examples of their preferred fruits include:

  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Apricots
  • Grapes

Reproduction and Egg Laying

Figeater beetles mate in spring, primarily during late spring. They lay their eggs in decomposing organic matter, providing nourishment for the larvae once they hatch.

Larva

The larval stage of figeater beetles is sometimes referred to as “crawly backs”. These larvae primarily feed on rotting plant material, aiding decomposition. At times, they may also consume small insects.

Pupa

Figeater beetles undergo a pupal stage in their life cycle, during which they transform from larvae to adult beetles. This process occurs within underground chambers made by the larvae.

Adult Stages

Upon emerging as adults, figeater beetles continue their diet of ripe fruit and floral resources. Birds and chickens can occasionally prey on these beetles, affecting their population.

Life StageDietHabitat
Larva (Crawly back)Rotting plant material, occasional small insectsDecomposing material
PupaDoes not feedUnderground chamber
AdultRipe fruit (figs, peaches, apricots, and grapes), nectar, pollen, and flower petalsGardens, orchards,

Figeater Beetles and Gardens

Fruits and Vegetables at Risk

Figeater beetles, also known as green fruit beetles or Cotinis mutabilis, mainly target soft-skinned fruits in gardens and orchards. Some examples of their preferred fruits are:

  • Figs
  • Peaches
  • Grapes
  • Tomatoes
  • Plums
  • Berries

Damage Caused by Figeater Beetles

These beetles cause damage by feeding on the fruits, leaving behind irregular holes and rotting fruit tissue.

  • Figeater beetles: Create superficial damage to fruits, making them unappetizing.
  • Japanese beetles: Cause more severe damage, defoliating plants and destroying leaves, leaving a lace-like appearance.
Beetle TypeDamage to FruitsDamage to Leaves
Figeater BeetlesHoles in fruitsMinimal
Japanese BeetlesDefoliationLace-like damage

Preventing Figeater Beetle Infestations

Here are some tips to prevent or minimize figeater beetle infestations in home gardens:

  • Remove ripe and overripe fruits promptly.
  • Maintain clean and tidy compost piles.
  • Apply organic mulch to reduce beetle breeding sites.
  • Monitor plant roots for beetle larvae and remove them as needed.
Crawly Back
Crawly Back

Comparing Beetles

Figeater Beetle vs Green June Beetle

Figeater beetles (Cotinis mutabilis) and green June beetles (Cotinis nitida) are often confused due to their similar appearance. However, there are some key differences between these species.

  • Size: Figeater beetles are larger, ranging from 0.78-1.18 inches in length, while green June beetles are smaller, reaching only 0.59-0.86 inches in length.
  • Color: Both have green, iridescent exoskeletons, but figeater beetles have a more uniform green color, while green June beetles may exhibit variations with more brown or bronze shades.

Example: In the garden, you might spot a green June beetle near compost piles, whereas a figeater beetle might be found buzzing around ripening fruit.

FeatureFigeater BeetleGreen June Beetle
Size0.78-1.18 inches0.59-0.86 inches
ColorUniform greenGreen, brown, or bronze

Figeater Beetle vs Japanese Beetle

Figeater beetles and Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) are quite different in terms of appearance and habits.

Figeater Beetle:

  • Size: 20-30mm.
  • Color: Iridescent green.
  • Habits: Active during daylight hours, feeds on ripe fruits.

Japanese Beetle:

  • Size: 8-11mm.
  • Color: Green and metallic bronze.
  • Habits: Active in the early morning and late afternoon, feeds on the foliage of more than 300 plant species.

For example, a Japanese beetle might be seen causing significant damage to roses or grapevines, while a figeater beetle would usually be found on soft, overripe fruits.

FeatureFigeater BeetleJapanese Beetle
Size20-30mm8-11mm
ColorIridescent greenGreen, metallic bronze
Active TimeDaylightEarly morning, late afternoon
Feeding HabitsRipe fruitsThe foliage of over 300 plant species

Interactions with Humans and Other Species

Are They Blind?

Figeater beetles have weak eyesight, but they are not entirely blind. People often consider them blind as they have poor navigation skills and often tend to crash into things while flying.

Flight and Movement Patterns

Figeater beetles have a clumsy and loud flight, which often brings them into contact with humans. These beetles are known for their buzzing sound, often compared to bees, while flying.

As mentioned above, they are not great at navigating, so they might bump into people or objects, but they’re harmless to humans.

Their flight patterns include zigzagging and making sudden turns, which enable them to evade birds and other predators.

Although figeater beetles can be destructive to fruit crops, they generally do not pose a significant threat to humans or their property.

Source: Davefoc, Via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Natural Controls

Figeater beetles face several predators in their natural habitat, such as:

  • Birds: Various species of birds prey on figeater beetles, particularly when the beetles are flying.
  • Lizards: Some lizards, like geckos, actively hunt for figeater beetles.

Natural controls for figeater beetles include:

  • Parasitic wasps: These wasps attack and consume figeater beetle larvae, reducing the beetle population.
  • Nematodes: Nematodes are microscopic worms that can infiltrate the soil and attack the larvae of the figeater beetles.

Comparison between figeater beetles and bees:

AttributeFigeater BeetlesBees
SoundBuzzing similar to beesBuzzing
Flight PatternClumsy, zigzagging, sudden turnsStraight, more controlled
Potential HarmDestructive to fruitsSting humans

Conclusion

In conclusion, figeater beetles might exhibit erratic flight patterns and collisions with objects, but they are not blind; they possess limited eyesight. Therefore they keep colliding with objects.

While their vision might not be the best, but they have a strong sense of smell. They rely on their keen sense of smell to locate ripe fruits for feeding.

These beetles play an essential role in the ecosystem by aiding in decomposition. Also they are decent and pollinators. However, they cause damage to fruits.

Understanding their behavior and interactions with their environment helps us appreciate their unique characteristics and ecological significance.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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6 thoughts on “Are Figeater Beetles Blind? Unveiling the Truth About Their Vision”

  1. Corona, California
    While walking my dog this morning (approximately 9:15am) I found a Crawly Back scooting along the edge of a lawn and brought it home to “Google it” after an appointment. Not knowing what it was outside of a grub I put it in a clean jar with some soil from my yard along with some tomato leaves, small tomato, parsley and poked plenty of holes in the lid for ventilation. Put a note on the jar not to disturb my creature and don’t open.
    I’m excited to learn what this grub baby will grow up to be. I’m going to keep it in the jar (hopefully it’s a proper environment), watch it mature and release it.

    Reply
  2. Corona, California
    While walking my dog this morning (approximately 9:15am) I found a Crawly Back scooting along the edge of a lawn and brought it home to “Google it” after an appointment. Not knowing what it was outside of a grub I put it in a clean jar with some soil from my yard along with some tomato leaves, small tomato, parsley and poked plenty of holes in the lid for ventilation. Put a note on the jar not to disturb my creature and don’t open.
    I’m excited to learn what this grub baby will grow up to be. I’m going to keep it in the jar (hopefully it’s a proper environment), watch it mature and release it.

    Reply
  3. I have so many in my compost pile and holes everywhere under my fruit trees. I was looking into irradiation methods because I have other sensitive crops I grow . I was suspicious that due to the drought conditions and the increase of other non benificials this or these were more of the same. I’m fighting to not use pesticides EVER . So do I keep . Like Angel I too am in San Jose

    Reply
    • What’s That Bug? officially promotes allowing them to live in the compost pile to help break down organic matter, and to then pick fruit before the Figeaters get to them.

      Reply

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