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Beetles Have an Eye Out for Figs

Help for the Home Gardener from the Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk

Client's Problem:

Black Mission Figs
The client has a Mission Fig tree that is about 5 years old. It has produced just fine until this year. The client is seeing little black insects that look like fleas on branches, but thinks they may be little beetles. Additionally, something is infecting the figs. About half of them are getting black inside. The client thinks it could be a fungus. The client wants to know what this is and how to control it.

CCMG Help Desk's Response:
I'm responding to your telephone inquiry yesterday about a problem with your Mission Fig. I under stand that you have observed little black insects on the tree branches which are about the size of a flea but may be beetles. You also reported that something is infecting the figs. Some figs are getting black inside and may have some fungal growth.

It is likely that the small insects that you have observed are the cause of the problem with the rotting figs. The insects may be dried fruit and/or sap beetles. There are several closely related species of this insect. The adults are small brown or black beetles with or without lighter spots on the wings, depending on the species, They range in size from 0.1 to 0.2 inch long and have clubbed antennae. The wings do not cover the last two to three abdominal segments. The larvae are white and 0.1 to 0.2 inch long when mature. Here are photos showing two different species of such beetles: 

Dried Fruit Beetle
photo: UC IPM
Adult Confused Sap Beetle
photo: UC IPM

As figs mature, the fruit often develops an entry point at the eye of the fig which the beetles use to gain entry into the soft fruit tissue. They can also enter the fruit at other openings in the fruit caused by mechanical injury or by other insects. After they enter the fruit, the beetles transmit spoilage organisms that cause the fruit to sour and ferment. The rotting figs in tum can attract other pests such as vinegar files and navel orange worms. The beetle larvae feed inside the fruit until they are mature enough to emerge and drop to the ground where they pupate and emerge as adult beetles.

To manage an infestation of the beetles the University of California recommends that you promptly remove and destroy all infected fruit. You may want to dispose of the rotting fruit in a plastic bag in your garbage to stop reproduction and spread of the beetles. You should remove any infected fruit from the tree and also promptly and thoroughly remove any fruit that drops to the ground.

UC also recommends trapping the beetles in a container with an inverted cone top. You can find a link to a drawing of such a container at this UC Davis website: You bait the trap with fermenting figs and water. You could also add some bakers yeast to speed up the fermentation process in the trap. If you decide to try traps, check them every couple of days and remove trapped beetles. Also replenish the water if needed.

As new figs start developing on your tree, check them carefully to try to detect and remove any that may have been invaded by the beetles. You may want to try harvesting on the early side of ripeness to reduce the chances that the beetles will have gained entry into the fruit.

UC also reports that fig varieties with small eyes (like a Mission fig) are less likely to be infected by the beetles than fig varieties with large eyes. The fact that your Mission fig appears to have been attacked by the beetles demonstrates that even they are not immune to attack.

As a final caution, the beetles can also infect other fruit such as stone fruits (e.g., peaches, plums, cherries, etc.) and citrus. So if you have such trees, keep an eye out for a problem. Early removal of any infected fruit and thorough and quick clean-up of fruit that drops to the ground would also help manage the problem in other fruit trees.

Hope this information is helpful. You are welcome to contact us again if you have further questions.

Contra Costa Master Gardeners' Help Desk

Editor's Note: The Contra Costa Master Gardener Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions.  Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA  94523.

We can also be reached via telephone:  (925) 646-6586, email:, and we are on the web at

Posted on Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 12:03 AM

Legacy of the drought may be fewer permanent crops

Louise Ferguson.
The California drought is expected to change planting patterns for the state's agricultural industry, reported Clint Jasper on Australian Rural Radio. Jasper interviewed Louise Ferguson, UC Cooperative Extension specialist and director of the UC Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center.

"Whether it's good or bad, in California we've become accustomed to a steady water supply though our catchments, dams and aqueducts that deliver water to the (Central) Valley," Ferguson said. "In the past 3 or 4 years of drought, we've become more dependent on wells, what you're always dependent upon here in Australia."

She predicted that, in the next three to five years, California will see a significant decrease in tree crops as a result.

"In California, up till now, we did not have groundwater use regulations," she said. "The increase in wells very shortly will lead to regulations, both quantity and quality. Meaning how much you can draw out and how much nitrogen you can use in your fertilization program."

Jasper also interviewed Almond Board of California president and chief executive officer Richard Waycott.

"As an industry we've been doing deficit irrigation research, and applying water efficiency research across our industry for many years," Waycott said. "The drought is caused by Mother Nature. All agriculture needs water, and our growers are responsible with the water they use."

Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Chicken coops, the good the bad the ugly.

Authors coop and run
Full disclosure, I am handy. I have power tools, and I'm not afraid to use them. In my first blog post I wrote about having broken my leg shortly after I got my baby chicks. This left me with lots of time to contemplate and research the best coop for my location and needs. I had a dog run left over by the previous owners of my house, which I refused to get rid of knowing full well that it would make a great chicken enclosure. My husband tried for eight years to give it away, and I somehow convinced him each time that we needed to hang on to it. Never was the word "chicken" mentioned. If you read my previous post you will understand... Ok, chicken coops, you can spend a lot of money or like me, very little. I have a friend that bought a custom built coop and run for $1,700. It is very nice and maybe you have to go that route because building things is not your "thing". That's ok.


The most important thing is the safety and relative comfort of the occupants. It's a dangerous world if you are a chicken. Since I was using a 6 x12 dog run as my enclosure I had heavy pipe and chain link that I knew no predator could bend to gain access. However, any determined raccoon, fox, dog or cat could dig under the pipe, so I lined the floor of the run with hardware cloth and since chain link is large enough for a paw to slip through I also lined the inside perimeter with chicken wire. Chicken wire is quite flimsy and I would never use it alone since a determined predator could tear it apart. Hardware cloth, which is really wire, is much stronger. I also buried a 12" strip of chicken wire on the outside of the run as a deterrent. All the wire is connected to the bottom pipe. My chickens are as safe as kittens as long as they are inside their run. I designed their coop using three sheets of plywood and some 2x4s. I had some leftover metal roofing material that I used as well. The dimensions of the coop itself are 3x6, it is basically a box on stilts, with a bunch of hinged doors for access. Inside there is a 2x4 perch that spans the six foot length. This is where the chickens sleep. Chicken feet are not designed to grip, so using the 4" side of a 2x4 for them to perch on is more comfortable for their feet. Instead of putting a solid floor in my coop I wired the bottom with hardware cloth and then cut two pieces of plywood to fit on top to catch the poo. Fact: Chickens poop a lot at night. I made a hinged trap door that is the full length of the coop that I use to clean out the poop. I just partially pull out the plywood pieces and scrape the poop onto a bin. Easy. Above the trap door is the nesting box also with a trap door to gather eggs. I can do all this without ever entering the run. Above the nesting box is a window for ventilation. Inside the run on the other side of the coop is the small door and ramp for the chickens to enter. I recommend painting the interior so you can hose it down once and a while. The raw wood will absorb the poop and odors. Make no mistake, keeping chickens is messy enough, think about ease of cleaning before you commit to a design. 

You may have noticed, there's a lot of talk about poop. That's the bad and the ugly truth! I'm a neat, dare I say, freak. Keeping the chicken run and coop clean is a chore. I read somewhere that keeping chickens was as easy as keeping a cat. I believed it, until I had chickens. So before you design your coop or shop for one, keep the above in mind. When doing my research I used Pinterest and Google, as well as There are endless examples of chicken coop designs and ready made coops available at every price point. I encourage you to do as much research as possible before you step into the chicken keeping world. Most of the information out there has a rosy tint, very little bad or ugly. But you should know the all of it. As always, I welcome any questions you might have.

Posted on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 8:21 AM

UC helps urban farmers cultivate crops

The City of Los Angeles has about 8,000 vacant lots, which potentially could be used for urban agriculture.
There is plenty of vacant land that could potentially be farmed in urban Los Angeles County, but there are hoops to jump before a hoe can rake through the earth, reported Rick Paulas in a Q&A article with UC Cooperative Extension advisor Rachel Surls, published on the KCET Food Rant blog.

"Sometimes, I think there's local elected officials who feel the highest use of that land is to build businesses that will create jobs," Surls said. "And although urban agriculture can sometimes create jobs, it has other community benefits that perhaps aren't entirely valued, like offering healthy food, beautifying the neighborhood. Oftentimes, neighborhoods get a Burger King on a piece of vacant land rather than a community garden."

Surls said beginning urban farmers at first need basic horticultural information - what to grow, when to plant, how to irrigate and how to manage pests. As they gain experience, they often encounter challenges there weren't aware of at first, such as regulatory or zoning issues.

"And if they stick around long enough," Surls said, "they get to a phase where they need more sophisticated production information, more marketing and business-oriented information, and advice on things like labor. How can I legally use volunteers? What are California labor laws? Just a lot of information that commercial farmers have been dealing with for a long time."

To help farmers at each of these stages, Surls developed a website for urban farmers that aggregates information and resources needed to start a new farm, work with city and county officials, and market their produce.

Posted on Wednesday, November 19, 2014 at 1:05 PM

New booklet advises Santa Cruz County residents 'Fresh Starts Here'

Produce tasting, nutritional tips and raffles were part of a celebration around the release on Monday of a new guide to local fruit and vegetables in Santa Cruz County, reported Donna Jones in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The 40-page booklet - titled "Fresh*Starts*Here" - was developed by UC Cooperative Extension, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation and the Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau. It includes nutrition information, tips for choosing and storing produce, recipes, and profiles of local farmers and health care professionals.

"It's about healthy eating and a healthy community," said Laura Tourte, UCCE farm management advisor in Santa Cruz County.

Tourte said the guide promotes consumption of food grown by local farmers. The recipes were chosen with an eye toward simple preparation and appeal to families.

UCCE contributed $4,100 to support the printing of the booklet, and all development committee members and participants contributed their time and effort. Funds to produce additional copies and a Spanish-language version are being sought.

Additional events marking the release of the booklet take place at 3 p.m. Nov. 18, at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation main clinic, 2025 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; and at 3 p.m. Nov. 20 at the PAMF westside clinic, 1303 Mission St., Santa Cruz.

Berry grower Javier Zamora is one of the farmers featured in the new booklet, 'Fresh*Starts*Here'
Posted on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 9:24 AM

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