Something is eating my figs

Figs are a popular sweet treat in nature for both humans and the sneakiest creatures

 

Figs are attacked by all sorts of critters and they do it ferociously as if the end of the world has come. They can drain the juices from the figs within a day or two. Although there is one thing that I noticed when hurricanes come to the region. The day afterward, the flies come. I don’t understand it, but the fruit begins to rot very quickly and this attracts the flies. Here are examples of the most common creatures that I’ve personally come across through observation.

Woodpeckers

Are probably the most damaging of all. They’ll just sit there pecking away, leaving holes in the figs. I’m not sure if they’re pecking at the insects or simply have a “sweet tooth”. I believe it’s the latter. If you have a woodpecker problem, I suggest you either run outside as fast as possible to get the ripe figs before the birds do, stand on guard with a BB gun, or simply surround your tree with a bird net. My choice would be the net.

White faced hornet

Sometimes known as the bald faced hornet. Workers arrive to eat the pulp inside the fig. They’ll stand their ground, so if you see a ripe fig next to their fig, it’s best to leave it alone until they leave. These hornets are peaceful creatures if you leave them alone. They’ll know you’re there if you’re watching them, but they won’t attack you like a wasp might. All they want to do is eat. If you disturb them, they’ll come and attack you with their nasty stinger leaving a most painful injection of venom.

Fig Wasps

These insects are not necessarily regarded as a pest, although their actions may cause the fig to ripen very quickly and the fig will lose its appeal. Before you know it, the fig will have dropped to the ground ready to germinate. Some figs require such a creature to pollinate the flowers deep inside.

Fruit flies

Fruit flies just appear out of nowhere and are always around. House flies seem to appear after a rain storm when some of the figs quickly begin to rot. Hurricanes are known to quickly rot your figs nearly overnight. The next day, the figs will be covered in flies. Occasionally, you might find a male mosquito drinking the nectar, while they pierce the skin of the fig. I’m not particularly excited about the fact that I’m feeding mosquitoes.

Some people claim that squirrels and raccoons eat the figs, but I have yet to see them actually attack the fig trees.

If you see a spiderweb on your tree, keep it there. You’ll be thankful that such a predator has found the perfect place to hang their trap. Ladybugs are also helpful to help control the pests.

Harvesting Figs

Ready for harvesting your ripe figs?

Your figs have been growing for a couple of months now, it’s August or September with the sweet fig smell in the air and they’re beginning to change color, some being eaten by birds, ants or surrounded by fruit flies. You ask yourself, “Are they ripe?”. Sometimes they’re ready once they’ve reached their ideal color for your fig variety. The best time for harvesting your figs regardless of the color is when you begin to see tiny white cracks in the skin.

Harvesting a ripe fig with splitting skin
Harvesting a ripe fig with splitting skin

This is the optimal time when the fig has reached the best flavor of sweetness. You can eat it right off the tree. Although some people like to rinse them first, or cut off areas that some bug affected. Mom likes to peel the skin off because it irritates her mouth. Other people bring them in to add to their favorite recipe. Whatever you do, keep in mind that they won’t last for more than maybe 2 days after the harvest. Since they have a lot of natural sugars and moisture, fungi is eager to grow on them. Your figs might not all be ripe at the same time, so it’s best to check on them regularly to find the ripe ones before nature sends in the critters.

How to pick

I had a young nephew ask me one day how to pick them off of the tree. I never thought someone would ask this question, but perhaps one of my readers has the same question even when in my mind it seems like common sense to know. In case if you haven’t figured it out, just grab the branch with one hand and carefully wiggle-pull the fig stem from the tree with the other hand and it will easily break off somewhere at or near the base of the stem. Try not to leave pieces of the fig on the tree to help avoid attacks from fungus or insects.

Harvesting tip

When you’re picking your figs be sure the mouth of the fig is nearly closed. I found one fig where it had a gaping wide mouth. Usually this indicates attack from an insect or perhaps a fig wasp. The best fig is one that has no large holes in it, you never know what’s inside when they look like this. Some people have named the mouth of the fig, an eye.