Q: What bug is this? It’s in and around the figs.
A: That is a green fruit beetle (Cotinis mutabilis). They are also called fig beetles for obvious reasons. They are big, green, and often mistaken for Japanese beetles by people who have never lived on the east coast and had to deal with Japanese beetles. As an upstate New York transplant, I am thankful we don’t have Japanese beetles on the west coast!
Fruit beetles can be found on ripe, damaged fruit or decaying matter in compost piles. They are frequently blamed for fruit damage, but their mouthparts are not capable of breaking fruit skin. They only go after fruit that has already been damaged by birds or other vertebrate creatures. Their larvae resemble oversized elbow macaroni and can be found buried in mulch or compost. They are harmless and we like to leave them for the birds when we turn the compost pile.
Fruit beetles can be deterred by picking fruit as soon as it’s ripe or damaged and disposing of fallen fruit promptly. Grow fruit varieties that ripen earlier in the season, if possible, since the beetles appear in late summer.
If you have a lot of beetles, you can make a trap by filling a one-gallon jug with about 2-3 inches of grape or peach juice diluted 1:1 with water. Make a funnel out of wire mesh and insert it, wide end up, into the top of the jug. The beetles will be attracted to the fruit juice and enter the container through the funnel. Once inside, they will be trapped and you will end up with a disgusting, buzzing jug of very large, confused beetles.
Securely cap the container and dispose of it promptly before your kids find it and think of something awful to do with it.
Q: I have a satsuma orange tree I planted 10 years ago that is going to give me a nice crop this winter. Two years ago I saw a “weed” growing next to the trunk. I can’t identify it but it looked like it is a tree. I tried to dig it out but the root was very deep and seemed intertwined with my satsuma. I refused to spray it with roundup thinking that might poison my fruit. I covered it with heavy black plastic in October to deprive it of sunlight. But a few weeks ago a new shoot arose. (I checked the part covered in plastic and it is black and dead.) A friend suggested I just cut off the new shoot but in a week it has sprouted again. What can I do?
A: That sprout is coming from the rootstock of your Satsuma. All commercially available citrus trees (and almost all other fruit trees) consist of a rootstock (usually a flying dragon or sour orange) and a scion of a cultivated variety. The rootstock confers resistance to soil-borne diseases or pests. It is indeed part of your tree, so don’t try to dig it out.
Just keep pruning these sprouts because they can take resources away from the productive part of your tree.