Fig leaf Beetle – Poneridia semipullata

With the Australian summer on its way it’s also time for the return of Fig Leaf Beetles. These guys do little damage to a mature fig tree, though they can quickly defoliate a smaller plants. If this happens a healthy fig will grow a new crop of leaves in a month or two.

I’m not sure where the adults live during the cooler months, they might die out in Sydney and migrate from the north when things heat up again.

Adult Fig Beetle damage
Adult Fig Beetle damage to a Ficus watkinsiana


The first adults appear around the beginning of November. While waiting for a mate to arrive they’ll chew away at the odd leaf. A short time after mating the female will lay a cluster of a hundred or so eggs on the under side of a leaf. The small hairy black caterpillars that emerge group together for safety and busily skeletonize as many leaves as they can. I’ve never observed the transition from larvae to adult, they probably make cocoons?


Fig Leaf Beetle egg cluster
Fig Leaf Beetle egg cluster


Ficus rubiginosa and coronata seem to be the favourite species along with the odd watkinsiana. I’ve seen photos of Fig beetles on virens and I’m sure they would happily attack many other species. (I’ve since seen them on carica, leptoclada, opposita). Most insecticides will kill the larvae and adults. Being a chewing insect a systemic poison can be used preventing the need to spray each individual. I’m happy enough to pull off any leaves that have eggs on them and squash the adults as I notice them. The adults have the annoying habit of dropping off the plant if they sense danger!


Fig Beetle larvae on a Ficus rubiginosa ‘variegata’


Damage from the larvae.
Damage from the larvae


Adult Fig Leaf Beetle.
An adult beetle



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11 Replies to “Fig leaf Beetle – Poneridia semipullata”

  1. I had fig leaf beetles (Poneridia semipullata) show up on my Brown Turk and Blue Provence figs in about 2012 and in early 2016 there were literally thousands of adults on the trees. I have to keep my trees covered with fruit fly net for control of fruit fly so birds do not have access either to the trees. While pruning suckers during winter I found many live beetles overwintering in the trash at ground level. Now in late September with the new leaves emerging the adults are already denuding leaves. I inspect 2-3 times a day and squash the beetles if they don’t fall off before I get to them. Last summer I destroyed egg clusters as I found them and regularly moved the beetles on but I suspect they crawled or flew back onto leaves after I left.
    I am not wanting to use insecticides so will continue with my current regime unless I find a better control method.

  2. Try:
    2 cups regular cooking oil
    1/2 cup regular household detergent
    Mix 4tbs of this concentrate per pint of water .
    Spray over foliage to runoff.

  3. Thanks for these pics and description. I have them all over a native sandpaper fig on the Sunshine Coast right now.

  4. If the tree is healthy it’ll be fine. I’ve had trees completely stripped of leaves and they’ve come back fine.

  5. I live in Sydney. I have a fairly young fig tree and it hasn’t flourished in the past couple of years due to the adults and the caterpillars – 2 years ago, the damage was just cosmetic but last year, the fruit didn’t develop as the leaves were being eaten at a rate faster than they could regrow. My fig has started to leaf this year and I noticed adults mating on the tree already and most of the leaves had been chewed down before having the chance to open up. Yesterday, I took my garden brazier and put some wet wood and smoked out the bugs. As they dropped to the ground, I squished them. This morning, there were adults there again, but far fewer than yesterday. I repeated the process. Here’s hoping my tree has a chance to grow a bit this year.

  6. Thanks Brendan… mystery solved. I caught a beetle, matched it on Google images and found your blog. I’ve been doing most of what you suggest and will continue… might also try letting them fall into a bag when they drop… and the white oil spray a commenter suggests. I’m in Brisbane and the two figs I have are about 3 years old, quite large and haven’t produced well yet. Another thing I’ve learnt about fig trees is to water them a LOT in spring.

  7. The easiest control method is to use a stick to knock them off the leaves. They usually fall downwards, so you can catch them in a bucket or other vessel for disposal. The most important thing by far is to check under the leaves for the eggs. They’ll be yellow or orange-yellow in a small circle. I just snip that part of the leaf off with scissors and destroy.

    This works most effectively when you start as soon as you see them on the leaves. Don’t wait!

  8. I try to get rid of them by pruning in spring when the eggs are being laid and removing the eggs or adults by hand. Most insecticides should work fine too, especially systemic insecticides that can flow through the tree and be sucked up by the insects.

  9. I have been doing battle with these beetles for 7 years, once with spray and since with constant picking, checking, squashing, removing. Right now there are a lot pupating in the garden below the tree, so I have covered garden and lawn with insect netting so they cannot get to the tree when they emerge. Hoping to break the cycle for this year.

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