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Attack of the Figeater

By Audrey Pavia, Urban Farm Contributor

Monday, August 08, 2011


Photo courtesy of Jengod/Wikipedia

The June bug that went after me last weekend looks just like this one.

This spring, my sister, Cyndi, came to visit me from the island where she lives in the South Pacific. While I was at work one day, she planted a garden of tomatoes. Now, four months later, I have bushels of the luscious red fruit.

Today I was outside picking some tomatoes, tossing the overripe ones to my chickens and placing the good ones in a bag, and as I bent over the plants with my face deep into the leaves, I heard a loud buzz. Suddenly, a giant, green figeater beetle — which most people call a June bug — flew into my face.

Although I'm an urban farmer, I'm rather squeamish when it comes to giant bugs (potato bugs scare me nearly to the point of passing out). When this big, green buzzing thing flew right at me, I screamed like a little girl and ran like hell.

I dashed across the patio and didn't stop until I no longer heard the buzzing. Assuming the scary creature was gone, I went back to the garden to pick up the tomatoes I dropped in my haste to escape. No sooner did I bend down to pick them up did I hear the loud buzzing again. I looked up and the beetle was hovering in front of my face, looking right at me.

I dropped the tomatoes again and ran. But no matter how far I ran from the tomato garden — which I decided the beetle must be guarding — the bug was close behind. It wasn't until I reached the back door that the beetle flew away.

As I paused to compose myself, I noticed that my chickens were all on the lawn, staring at me. The dogs, Nigel and Olivia, were also looking at me, perplexed. The horses were ignoring me — they had hay in their feeders — and it would take more than me running from a bug to get them to notice.

Mortified by the aggression of this insect, I went in the house and did an internet search for June bugs. I found out that the species where I live, in the Southwest, is called a figeater. I failed to find anything about these beetles being aggressive and chasing people. All information I found on June bugs and chasing involved the bugs being chased, not humans.

I also discovered that chickens eat June bugs. I found stories about hens pursuing June bugs all over the yard until they catch them. My chickens have no interest in them. It's probably because I have bantams; to them, these bugs look like behemoths.

The moral of the story is that I’ll have to find some environmentally safe way to deal with this figeater, who has laid claim to my tomatoes. Either that or go out and get some normal-sized chickens.

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Give us your opinion on Attack of the Figeater.
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Annie, Houston, TX
Posted: 3/21/2013 7:20:02 AM
I started hiking at a nearby preserve this fall, and I have had horrible experiences with a big bug circling and buzzing aggressively at me. I always put on bug spray, but so far running is all I can do. The last time I went it would not stop though! I was running and jumping and yelling. My hiking partner acted like I was overreacting/crazy but it hasn't gone after them yet. It's been making me so anxious while I hike, it's miserable. This is the only thing I've been able to find about it though. I wonder if it could be that they're protecting eggs or something.
Victoria, Dallas, TX
Posted: 10/25/2012 3:51:39 AM
Wow--I had the exact same thing happen to me in the small picnic area near the business park where I work. It is very unsettling as the beetle came directly for me and sometimes just hovers in front of me...other times circling wildly around my body. This has happened on several different days. Thanks for sharing and making me feel less crazy and paranoid.
Janice, San Diego, CA
Posted: 8/10/2011 1:17:41 PM
Audrey, I'm sorry. I have to confess that I had to smirk just a little at your encounter with the dreaded June Bug. I don't really have any advise on how to rid your tomato patch from the guard bug. We have them here in Nebraska but they are not aggressive and always stay far away from humans. The frost in the fall usually kills the life cycle for the year but then again it also kills the tomato life cycle as well. I sure hope you find a way to rid garden of the pesky bug as I wouldn't want you to miss out on the tomato harvest.
David, Omaha, NE
Posted: 8/9/2011 7:11:15 AM

About the Blogger

Audrey Pavia

Audrey Pavia
Keeping farm animals in the city can be a real hoot. Follow freelance writer Audrey Pavia's adventures in Southern California with a yard full of urban livestock, including horses, chickens, a Corgi and an urban barn cat. She somehow manages all these silly critters while working full-time, with no one to help her but her husband, Randy, a born-and-raised New Yorker. And you thought "The Simple Life" was out there?

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