Exploring the Symbolic Meaning of Figeater Beetles

Figeater beetles, also known as green fruit beetles or Cotinis mutabilis, are often observed in gardens and orchards, especially during the summer months. These vibrant green beetles are native to the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, and they play a crucial role in the decomposition of organic matter such as fruits and flowers.

Symbolically, figeater beetles represent regeneration and the cycle of life. Their ability to consume decaying plant material and facilitate the breakdown of organic matter highlights the concept of transformation and rebirth in nature. As a result, it’s interesting to explore the different aspects of figeater beetle symbolism and how these fascinating creatures can provide insights into our own lives and personal growth.

Figeater Beetle Basics

Identification and Appearance

Figeater beetles, scientifically known as Cotinis mutabilis, are a type of scarab beetle. They are often confused with Green June beetles. Here’s a comparison of their appearances:

Feature Figeater Beetle Green June Beetle
Color Greenish with a metallic luster Greener and less metallic
Size Slightly larger Slightly smaller
Distribution Southwestern US Eastern US
  • Both beetles belong to the scarab beetle family
  • Figeater beetles are green with a metallic sheen, while Green June beetles are greener and less metallic.

Habitat and Range

Figeater beetles are primarily found in the southwestern United States, although they do overlap with some eastern species like the Green June beetle. Their preferred habitats include:

  • Areas with fruit trees
  • Gardens with vegetable plants

Diet and Feeding Habits

The diet of Figeater beetles mainly consists of:

  • Overripe fruit
  • Vegetable matter
  • Some tree sap

Figeater beetles are less destructive than their Green June beetle counterparts, which are known to cause more damage to fruits and vegetables. In summary, Figeater beetles are an interesting species of scarab beetle, readily identifiable by their appearance, habitat, and feeding habits.

Lifecycle and Reproduction

Larvae and Grubs

Figeater beetles, scientifically known as Cotinis mutabilis, lay their eggs in decomposing organic material. The larvae, also known as grubs, then hatch from these eggs after a few days. Grub characteristics include:

  • Creamy white color
  • Soft, C-shaped bodies
  • Grow up to 2 inches

The larvae primarily feed on organic matter and are responsible for breaking down dead plant material. As they grow, they mature through several stages called instars. Eventually, they reach the pupal stage and undergo metamorphosis to transform into adults. Pupation occurs in a compact earthen cell, and it takes approximately 1-2 weeks for an adult to emerge.


Adult figeater beetles have striking looks and unique features:

  • Vibrant green color
  • Oval-shaped bodies
  • Approximately 1.25 inches long

They feed on a variety of ripe, soft fruits, such as figs, peaches, and berries. Adult beetles also contribute to pollination as they move from flower to flower in search of nectar and other sweet secretions. The lifecycle of figeater beetles spans from the egg stage to adult, providing a unique and interesting perspective on these insects’ symbolism.

Impact on Gardens and Agriculture

Beneficial Aspects

  • Dung beetles: Figeater beetles, being part of the scarab beetle family, share similarities with dung beetles. They play a role in breaking down organic matter in the soil, assisting with fertilization and contributing to a healthier ecosystem.
  • Pollination: While not as efficient as bees or butterflies, figeater beetles can aid in the pollination process. Their attraction to Magnolia flowers helps facilitate cross-pollination, which in turn fosters plant growth and diversity.

Harmful Effects

  • Fruit destruction: The figeater beetle, also known as green fruit beetle, is notorious for causing damage to ripe and overripe fruits such as figs, tomatoes, grapes, peaches, plums, and berries. The adult beetles are attracted to the fermentation odors and consume the fruit, causing loss in yield.
  • Turf damage: The beetle larvae, known as grubs, feed on grass roots and decayed organic matter, causing harm to grass and turf areas. A thick turf can help reduce the damage from fig beetles.

Here is a comparison table of figeater beetles (FB) and Japanese beetles (JB):

Aspect Figeater Beetle (FB) Japanese Beetle (JB)
Classification Scarabaeidae Scarabaeidae
Habitat Western US, warmer climates Eastern US, cooler climates
Feeding Habits Ripe and overripe fruit Leaves, flowers, fruit
Damage to Gardens Fruits, turf Leaves, flowers, grass roots
Sound Loud buzzing No significant sound

Pros of Figeater Beetles:

  • Contribute to soil fertility by breaking down organic matter
  • Assist in pollination of certain plants

Cons of Figeater Beetles:

  • Damage ripe and overripe fruits
  • Cause harm to turf and grass roots

To minimize the negative effects of figeater beetles, it’s essential to maintain a clean garden, remove overripe fruit, and avoid excessive use of manure and compost that may attract beetles. Implementing biological control methods, such as introducing predators or parasites instead of using harmful pesticides, can also help keep the fig beetle population in check.

Methods of Control and Prevention

Natural Predators

Figeater beetles have several natural predators, including:

  • Birds
  • Digger wasps
  • Nematodes

For example, birds like mockingbirds can help reduce figeater beetle populations by feeding on the adult beetles and their larvae. This is a safe and environmentally-friendly way to control these pests.

Cultural Practices

To prevent figeater beetles, here are some effective cultural practices:

  • Proper irrigation
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Removing decaying plant matter

For instance, using flood irrigation can help control these pests by creating an unsuitable environment for their larvae to thrive. This method also promotes healthy turf and strong grass roots.

Chemical Control

Chemical control should be used as a last resort. Some available pesticides include:

  • Carbaryl
  • Imidacloprid
Pesticide Pros Cons
Carbaryl Effective against adult beetles May harm beneficial insects
Imidacloprid Low toxicity to mammals Can negatively impact pollinators

Caution: Always read and follow the label instructions on pesticides. Use them carefully and only when necessary. Avoid overuse to minimize negative effects on the environment and non-target organisms.

Symbolism and Spiritual Significance

Cultural Interpretations

Figeater beetles, also known as green fruit beetles, are associated with various symbolic meanings in different cultures. In some traditions, they represent:

  • Power: Their strong flight capabilities symbolize strength and power.
  • Change: The metamorphosis they undergo represents change and transformation.
  • Creativity: With their vibrant green color, they are also seen as symbols of creativity.

Dreams and Personal Growth

Encountering a figeater beetle in dreams could signify:

  • Spiritual growth: The presence of a figeater beetle in a dream may be a sign of spiritual growth or development.
  • Strength: Seeing a black beetle in dreams may symbolize inner strength and resilience.

Good Luck and Positivity

Figeater beetles can also symbolize:

  • Good luck: In some beliefs, they are thought to bring good fortune.
  • Hope: They can signify hope and a solution to problems.
  • Connection to the universe: Their presence may symbolize a connection to the greater universe and spiritual realms.

In summary, the symbolism and spiritual significance of figeater beetles cover a wide range of concepts such as power, change, creativity, spiritual growth, and good luck. These diverse interpretations serve as reminders to be open to new opportunities and embrace personal growth in different aspects of life.


In summary, the figeater beetle symbolism carries various meanings and interpretations. For instance:

  • Symbol of transformation: Due to their life cycle stages, beetles like figeater symbolize metamorphosis and personal growth.
  • Connection to nature: As they are part of the natural world, beetles teach us the importance of environmental balance and conservation.

When analyzing beetle symbolism, one must take cultural and, sometimes, personal perspectives into account. By observing the traits and habits of figeater beetles, we can derive valuable insights and lessons to apply in our lives.

Comparing figeater beetles to other well-known symbolic insects, such as butterflies or dragonflies, we can appreciate the diverse ways nature imparts wisdom and inspiration. The table below illustrates this:

Insect Symbolism
Figeater Transformation, connection to nature
Butterfly Change, hope, life
Dragonfly Poise, agility, self-realization

Examining the symbolism of figeater beetles can help us develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world and our place within it.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Crawlybacks in the compost pile


Giant larva in my copost bin?
Location: Burbank, California
May 1, 2011 5:39 pm
We get lots of interesting creatures in our compost and I see many of these larve that are about as thick around as my middle finger. Last time I was turning the compost, I pulled a few out to take a picture and hopefully identify them.
I hope you can help, my kids and especially interested in learning what they areso they can tel their classmates at school.
Our guess was perhaps tomato bug larvae?
Signature: Curious Dad


Hi Curious Dad,
You have Crawlybacks, the larvae of the Green Fruit Beetle or Figeater,
Cotinus mutabilis.  The name Crawlyback is discussed by Charles Hogue in his awesome book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, where he writes that the larvae “obtain purchase on the substratum with traverse rows of still short stout bristles on the back of the thorax.”  The larvae do not affect lawns or grass.  The bright metallic green adults are active in August and September.


Letter 2 – Fig Tree Borer from South Africa: Phryneta spinator


Subject: ??Beetle in South Africa
Location: South Africa
March 20, 2013 11:04 am
Dear Bugman,
I am a missionary in Knysna, South Africa and LOVE taking pictures. Lately I have been focusing on finding interesting creepy crawlies. We are at the end of summer and this beetle (if it is that) was found outside the hotel where we meet for services. I have NO idea what it is. Do you??
Signature: Scared, but faking braveness for the photo, Amy

Longhorned Borer Beetle
Fig Tree Borer

Hi Amy,
This is a Longhorned Borer Beetle in the family Cerambycidae.  Members of the family are also known as Longicorns, Capricorns or Bycids.  We will try to determine the species for you.  Though they are not dangerous, large individuals should be handled with caution as they have very powerful mandibles that are used to chew their way out of the wood they bored in as larvae.  It is conceivable that a bite might draw blood and be painful.

Update:  December 29, 2013
We just recieved a comment indicating that this is a Fig Tree Borer,
Phryneta spinator, and we found a matching photo on BioDiversity Explorer.

Letter 3 – Fig Borer from Israel


Huge bug found in Israel
Location: Israel (Tel Aviv area)
September 20, 2011 5:35 am
Hello Daniel,
Thank you for this wonderful web site. This bug I found on my balcony on the 9th floor at the end of August 2011 in Israel. Well, I have never seen such a huge and beautiful bug, it looks like a prehistoric one. Wow!
My cat first discovered it and she started to play with it. When she touched him he started to move his head (like bowing) and was producing sounds of wooden branch creak. The size of the bug is 3 to 4 inches. Supposedly it can fly.
Well, I let him free in the nearby garden. My can was very disappointed. 🙂
Please identify it.
Signature: Julia K

Fig Borer

Hi Julia,
Your cat discovered a Mango Stem Borer,
Batocera rufomaculata.  In Israel where it causes damage to the trees in fig plantations, it is known as the Fig Borer.  You can see some links to other websites by viewing the earlier posting of a Mango Stem Borer from Israel.

Thank you Daniel!!! It so great that so quickly identified it, i will look into your link. Thanks a bunch!

Letter 4 – Fig Eater


San Diego Beetle
Dear Bugman,
I saw this beetle in the bushes at the San Diego zoo last fall. It was about an inch long and flew off after the picture was taken. I have seen a few of them around the area, do you know what it is? I have attached a picture and any help you can give me would be great! I love the site and check it all the time!

Hi Katie,
This is a Green Fruit Beetle or Fig Eater, Cotinus mutabilis. This large green metalic scarab flies in August and September and produces a loud buzzing in flight. Eggs are laid in compost piles and adults feed on fruit, especially peaches and figs.

Letter 5 – Figeater


green beetle
Could you help me with this one?

We believe this is a Green Fruit Beetle, also known as a Figeater, but we cannot be certain that your photo was taken in the American Southwest. If it was taken in Bali, it is some other green scarab.

Letter 6 – Figeater


Subject: help beetle ID
Location: San Diego County
August 22, 2016 11:18 am
I’m a bird photographer. Keep seeing this flying beetle buzzing through when I’m shooting hummingbirds. It’s large enough that it keeps catching my field of vision as a hummer. But a bit smaller. Flies very fast in large circular motions. Tried getting it in flight but no luck. Finally got a shot of it on a flower. Thought I could easily find it’s ID because of size and coloring. No luck though. Can you help?
Signature: Gerald Friesen


Dear Gerald,
This distinctive Scarab Beetle is commonly called a Figeater and they are especially noticeable during the hot days of summer.

Thank you so very much.
If you ever need a bird ID, please let me know.


  • 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.

  • 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.

11 thoughts on “Exploring the Symbolic Meaning of Figeater Beetles”

  1. although these would not be considered kosher in Israel, they are definitely edible. I tried one in Thailand once. It was a somewhat difficult comestible, but it’s possible that it wasn’t cooked according to a standard recipe or that I wasn’t eating it correctly.


  2. I recently moved to Orange County, CA from the midwest and your pictures and description of this beetle was perfect! A rather large one flew into my garage today, and I thought it was the largest bee alive by the way it was flying, until the sun caught it and I saw the green/iridescent coloring. My son was able to direct it out of the garage with a broom easily, as it awkwardly flew around. A small humming bird had been by the garage door as this beetle entered and their wing spans were almost equal at a glance. This was the largest scarab shaped beetle I have ever seen, but not knowing what exactly it was there was no way I was batting it down for a measurement!

    Thank you for a species name and more specific information so I know more about this native “bug” than I did before! =)


  3. This appears to be a fig tree borer, Phryneta spinator. They are reaching pest status in areas where figs are cultivated in SA. Johan.

  4. We had a big population of these in OUR compost heap in the High Desert of California years ago. I’ve always wondered what they were, and I just found out what they are thanks to this site 🙂

    My step-son had pet rats, and for “fun” (sorry!) he put a couple of these into the rat’s cage and the rats went NUTS over them- the rats loved them and acted like they hadn’t eaten in days! I assumed the grubs were not beneficial so I let the rats have a go at it on the compost heap and I never saw rats move so fast. Maybe rats do have a benefit to mankind after all?

  5. We had a big population of these in OUR compost heap in the High Desert of California years ago. I’ve always wondered what they were, and I just found out what they are thanks to this site 🙂

    My step-son had pet rats, and for “fun” (sorry!) he put a couple of these into the rat’s cage and the rats went NUTS over them- the rats loved them and acted like they hadn’t eaten in days! I assumed the grubs were not beneficial so I let the rats have a go at it on the compost heap and I never saw rats move so fast. Maybe rats do have a benefit to mankind after all?

  6. what would make fig eater beetles dive bomb me everytime I try to go outside-it happens each year during their season-they then try to land on me

  7. I was told it was a Japanese Beetle decades ago. I’m glad to finally see what it REALLY is and what a Japanese Beetle is! Thanks so much!

    A few days ago some jerk said it was a Blue Tail Fly. It seems there’s not much info out there on Blue Tail Flies, and most images have photos of blue dragonflies. Wrong! All I could find on Blue Tail Flies was that they are a Horse Fly, but I can’t find any images. Anyone out there have a good photo of a Blue Tail Fly?

  8. They are actually swarming my fig tree. I won’t have any fruit left Glad to know they are harmless as I was afraid due to the number of them

    Looks like s Hitchcock movie here in Cottonwood AZ!

  9. It’s a different climate and a few large hilly separations between West Los Angeles and Pasadena, so I guess that’s the reason.
    Thanks for your reply.


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