Fig trees in this area of the Northeast don’t have many pests. Once in a while, you’ll come across leaves being eaten. Most of the time you’ll find that nothing is eating the leaves or branches most probably because the sap (latex) is sticky and can be irritating (even to human skin). Other times, the problem might not be a pest, but a rust fungi infection.
One thing you can try is to stir up a mix of soapy water and then spray it onto the leaves. You can use mild dish detergent. Dish detergent is generally a petroleum product, if this concerns you then use a biodegradable soap. You can find biodegradable soap in camping stores and it’s much better for the environment. If it rains, reapply this soapy water. This is a common method of general plant care when it comes to pest control. Always resort to this method first before you consider other options. Another solution is to release ladybugs onto your tree and hope that they will eat the creatures that you can’t see.
There is a common pest called a Stink Bug. These bugs will lay a cluster of their eggs on fig tree leaves and the larvae will eat the leaves. If you have an infestation, you may need to cut the effected leaves off of your tree and then burn them along with the larvae. Stink bugs are very difficult to eradicate and are currently spreading throughout the Northeastern states.
These bugs were a problem in my neighborhood in 2010, but I haven’t seen any Stink Bugs for a long time. Maybe it was just a wave of a migration through the area.
Yellow, wilting or curling leaves. This is a sign that your tree is dehydrated and needs water ASAP.
If the tree has been growing in the ground, place a garden hose directly at the base of the tree and let the water trickle over it for at least 1-2 hours. Watering a tree can be a daunting experience sometimes, so I recommend that you buy this Drip Irrigation Water Rock Sandstone. It might look ugly, but you can apply latex paint to it to change the color. In the meantime, it will have a continuous water drip into the roots of your tree. If it’s a young freshly planted tree, continue to water it on a regular basis about once every 3 days (skipping on rainy days) until the growing season has ended.
Fig Fact: Did you know that these are not only fruit, but also flowers? How can this be?
Some of these trees are self-pollinating and others require a very tiny wasp. It enters through a little hole (the mouth) at the end of the fruit. The Brown Turkey fig, which is featured in this blog is self-pollinating so you don’t have to worry about whether you’re going to eat a tiny insect inside of it.
The fruit actually encases hundreds of flowers deep within it’s core. This is why this fruit appears to be slightly hollow in the center.
Some fig varieties have a special relationship to a specific non-stinging wasp species. This is how the relationships between figs and insects have evolved to live in harmony. At the bottom end of the fig, you can find a hole called a mouth. The fig wasp is a very tiny insect that pollinates the fig. It crawls in to mate with a male and then lay eggs, while it’s doing that it is able to push pollen deep into the fig to reach tiny flowers and their stamen. This is the way it can fertilize it’s seeds. I have yet to witness a ficus wasp and I’ve been harvesting figs for several years. Usually if one of these wasps have laid it’s eggs, the fruit will shrivel and fall to the ground very quickly.
Be sure to remove them from around your tree to help prevent fungus and insects from attacking your healthy figs.
Figs are very safe to eat, but like any fruit you pick from the garden, observe it carefully before you eat it. If you click on the link above, you’ll notice one of these species of wasp mentioned in the USDA Forest Service article.