Talk about a serious case of misconceptions. Fig beetles have such a bad reputation, but they are amazing!
When I first moved to my neighborhood I couldn’t help but notice these giant, bright green, buzzing monsters! They have a habit of flying right towards your head, and like most people, I couldn’t help but flinch.
Being the curious garden gnome that I am though, after two or three encounters where nothing bad happened to me, I had to take a closer look. These little guys are beautiful! They’re iridescent like jewels and shaped like the scarab beetles you see in mummy movies. “Such exotic creatures must be an invasive species,” I thought. “Woe on them.” I looked to the internet to verify this thought.
Once again, I was mistaken!
Fig beetles are native to Southern California and play an important role in cleaning rotten fruit away before our yards and sidewalks get all sticky and nasty. They are not considered pests because their impact on fruit production is low. However, they get the name fig beetle because they dine on fruit, including figs! My neighborhood is bursting with fruit trees of every kind so it makes sense that there’s a lot of them around.
There are a few others common myths about these lovely beetles that I would like to dispel.
**They are not dangerous, they’re just loud.**
These beetles are special because they are actually part of the scarab family (like the Egyptian beetles you think of). Beetles in this family fly without having to lift up their hard, protective outer shell. (As opposed to beetles like lady bugs, which have to lift up their shell to fly.) Because their wings stick out of the sides of their shell, they make a really loud buzzing sound when they fly. They don’t bite or sting or anything like that. They’re feet aren’t even sharp, and it doesn’t hurt when they bump into you.
**They are not blind, they’re just super clumsy.**
These guys are hefty and that probably makes flying hard. They bump into stuff a lot, but they can definitely see.
**They are different from June bugs.**
It makes sense that people would think they are green June bugs because fig beetles are also common during summer months (when there’s lots of ripe fruit). June bugs are also part of the scarab family… but they’re brown.
**They don’t stink.**
I personally verified this today. I helped a fig beetle get off it’s back and it left some liquid on my hand (ew). Literally no smell though.
It makes me sad when I bike through the park to see the sidewalk strewn with little fig beetle bodies. I imagine that, like me, people don’t know enough about them to get past their fear. Once I understood what fig beetles are and why they’re so loud, they weren’t so scary!
The next time a fig beetle bumps into your face, say hi! 😀
This post was inspired by “When Fig Beetles Attack!” posted by Emily Hartop on the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum website.