Fig leaf Beetle – Poneridia semipullata

Adult fig leaf beetle of Ficus rubiginosa 'variegata'

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!

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FigBeetle4
Fig Beetle larvae on a Ficus rubiginosa ‘variegata’

 

Damage from the larvae.
Damage from the larvae

 

Adult Fig Leaf Beetle.
An adult beetle