ladybugs and fig tree fruit

(Question)

I am writing to ask for some ideas on how to address the problem of ladybugs eating the ripened figs from our fig trees. Last autumn most of the fruit of our fig trees was eaten just before it became ripe enough to pick. I am wondering if there is a safe, non-toxic way to treat ladybug larva so that we can avoid the same fate this year, and actually get to enjoy the fruits of our labours. We did not have this problem in years past. We are in Toronto, zone 6, amended clay soil, sunny location.

(Answer)

Ladybugs, which are actually a beetle, only eat other bugs – their favourite are aphids, but they will also eat scale insects and plant mites. Their larvae, which look like small black and orange alligators, also east aphids.

For more information about ladybugs, and their larvae: http://www.ladybuglady.com/LadybugsFAQ.htm#1

So, what I believe is happening is the ladybugs are eating the aphids or other soft-bodied insects that are in fact supping on your fig tree. The ladybugs are in fact helping you. Aphids are soft-bodied insects that come in  a variety of colours – green, yellow, red, whitish and even black. The green ones are harder to see on a plant, and if they are just hatched, they are very small. Check under the fig leaves for tiny insects along the mid-rib, or clustered around the petiole (leaf-stem). They are sucking insects interested in the sap of the plant. They cannot digest all the sugars from the sap, so secrete a sticky substance called honeydew. This can attract other insects, such as wasps, bees, flies and ants, the latter will protect the aphids for their honeydew.

Large numbers can distort the leaves and fruit, and can kill some plants.  To remove small amounts of aphids, a quick blast from a hose will dislodge the aphids, especially when directed under the leaves. It they are gone, so are the ladybugs.

Even so, it is possible that something other than what you suspect are eating your fruit. I found that there is another beetle that eats figs – but it’s green and looks nothing like a ladybug.

Birds, squirrels and raccoons have a fondness for fruit. Birds peck holes, leaving damage, squirrels tend to eat a bit and leave the rest, and well, raccoons will just make off with them. A net thrown over the tree can discourage birds. Daily harvesting will help with the others.