Of Lady Beetles and Green Fruit Beetle Larvae

Make way for the beetles!

Lady beetles, green fruit beetle larvae, and stick-on bug tattoos drew inquisitive and appreciative crowds when the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) staffed an informational booth at Briggs Hall during the 109th annual UC Davis Picnic Day.

Forensic entomologist Robert Kimsey and doctoral student Grace Horne of the Emily Meineke lab,  UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, chaired the department's Picnic Day Committee. (See 'What's a Picnic Without Bugs?)

Lady beetles?

UC IPM gave away 2000 lady beetles, aka ladybugs, for visitors to release in their gardens. These beneficial insects gobble up aphids and other soft-bodied insects. A single beetle can eat as many as 50 aphids a day, scientists say.

Karey Windbiel-Rojas, associate director for Urban and Community IPM/Area IPM Advisor, said attendees asked scores of questions. "Questions were quite varied but those that stood out were how to control: termites, aphids, caterpillars, ants, carpet beetles, and rats," she said.

Green fruit beetles?

Another popular draw: Green fruit beetle larvae. "They were fun for people to get hands-on with and gave us the chance to talk to people about the difference between look alike scarab beetle larvae," Windbiel-Rojas wrote in an email. "Japanese beetles (which are not established in California), masked chafer beetles (their grubs ARE pests in raised garden beds and lawns) and green fruit beetles (which are not really pests but people sometimes see them in compost)."

"The green fruit beetle (scarab, family Scarabaeidae), is also called a fig eater beetle, green fig beetle, or western green June beetle," according to the UC IPM website. "The adults are an occasional pest of ripe fruits. Adults can fly a relatively long distance and are highly attracted to ripe fruit and the odors of manure and fermenting fruit."


 UC IPM gave away 500 stick-on (temporary) tattoos, including images of the Chinese red-headed centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes mutilans), tarantula hawk (Pepsis heros) and the hickory horned devil caterpillar of a regal moth (Citheronia regalis). They were all gone within a few hours. "Next year we plan to order 1000," Windbiel-Rojas said. Staffing the educational table that included the tattoos were her two sons, Diego, a freshman at McClatchy High School in Sacramento,  and Spencer, a seventh grader at Sutter Middle School in Sacramento. As attendees examined and applied the tattoos, the youths talked about invasive pests and the importance of not moving firewood to spread pests.

Meanwhile, at the entrance to Briggs Hall, it was "beetle mania" as members of the UC Davis Entomology Graduate Student Association kept busy selling their beetle t-shirts, the most popular of their insect-themed t-shirts.