The Figeater: Nature’s drunk

The figeater beetle, often heard before it is seen.  A deep hum followed by the occasional smack as it bumps into various objects.  Buildings, trucks, windows, people, pretty much anything standing.  I’ve never seen one fly straight, by all visual accounts, the beetles seem to fly intoxicated.  I often find them, in the summer, stunned and on their backs on the sidewalk.  Whenever I encounter one, I pick it up and carry it until it recovers and flies off to inevitably smack into something else.

Even as a larva it moves through its world with comical behavior.  It has legs but doesn’t use them, using the hairs on its back to propel itself instead.  Oh, nature.

Los Angeles has quite a few peculiar bugs, from wind scorpions to potato bugs but the figeater beetle has to be my favorite.  With its beautiful, metallic green carapace and endearing flight patterns, whenever I see (or hear) one, I smile.

My mom came to visit and while sitting out by the pool she thought she had been buzzed by a cockroach and was considerably disturbed.  I told her that that seemed highly unlikely.  While cockroaches do fly sometimes, they mainly seem to do so at night.  When the culprit returned, it revealed itself to be a figeater.  It landed on my mom and she released her characteristic whine of consternation.  I contributed to her chagrin with, “Hey pretty lady, can I buy you a drink?”

A week later, my senior Doberman basked in the gentle rays of the morning sun.  He snoozed on his bed next to the open patio door.  I heard the characteristic buzz of the figeater, followed by a loud smack.  The figeater had flown in, smacked into the wall and landed on my dog.  The poor old boy jolted awake and scrambled away from his bed, frightened by the bug.  Deeply perturbed, he stared at me from the hallway, waiting for me to remove the bug from his bed.  With a great deal of laughter, I did, I sent the figeater on its way and closed the screen door.  Peace restored, my dog eventually returned to his mid-morning slumber.

While people duck and dive out of the way of the figeater’s unpredictable course, I hold my hands up to greet them.  Sometimes it lands on my palm, sometimes it veers away.  Regardless, I thoroughly enjoy the comedy that invariably follows their unpredictable presence.


A figeater on my kitchen window screen last week.