En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - June 05, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Beetles in spineless prickly pear in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an enormous spineless prickly pear in my front garden. It's about 6 feet tall, and 6 feet wide. It has blossoming yellow flower. However, it also has large colonies of black beetle-ish bugs living on it. The are in large clumps of the beetles on certain pads in the shadier parts of the cactus. The pads on which they spend most of their time are generally more pale than the other pads. So, A) what the heck are these beetle things? and B) should I try and get rid of them? How?

ANSWER:

We are not entomologists and this is out of our line; however, we did some Internet searches in an effort to figure out what was going on with your Opuntia ellisiana (tigertongue). The creature that sounded most like your description is described on this website from Arizona Wild Flowers Cochineal Beetle.  Most of the sites we found on this beetle were more interested in the fact that red dye could be made from the beetle (yuck) than what to do about the thing. 

From the University of Florida Featured Creatures comes this article on Chelinidea vitttiger aequoris, which is actually being studied as a way to control invasive members of the genus Opuntia, prickly pear, especially in Australia. This article, Bug Guide Prickly Pear Fruit Beetles shows a very glossy black beetle on an Opuntia pad.

And, finally, here is an article by Badii and Flores, Prickly Pear Pests and their Control in Mexico. Our eyes glazed over. 

Through all of this, we're still not sure we found the bug you describe. You can try looking at Images of Cochineal beetle from Google, and see if they match up to the beasties on your cacti. 

We would suggest, if you don't identify your bug with anything we supplied, that you contact the Texas AgriLIFE Extension Office for Travis County.  They do work with entomologists and may even have a printed bulletin about this pest, especially if you are not alone in having the infestation. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Opuntia ellisiana

Opuntia ellisiana

Opuntia ellisiana

Opuntia ellisiana

 

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

What to do with a sickly American elm in Austin, Texas
September 27, 2010 - I have an American elm that is about 6 feet tall in my yard. It is has not grown quickly this year--as compared to another American Elm that I have in another spot that is about 3 feet tall and has m...
view the full question and answer

Leaves falling off recently transplanted mature Mountain Laurel
July 05, 2006 - I have recently purchased a Mountain Laurel for my backyard landscaping. It is a fully matured ML standing over 9 feet tall by 6 feet wide. Since it was planted (about 6 weeks ago) it has been losin...
view the full question and answer

Problems with spreading juniper in Sturgis, SD
May 25, 2011 - I live in Sturgis, South Dakota and I have two different varieties of Spreading Juniper in the yard as ground cover. They have developed an orange colored fungus that goes dormant in the winter but a...
view the full question and answer

What is eating the plants in my garden?
August 08, 2008 - I have both purple and yellow coneflowers. Something is coming into my garden and eating the flowers off the stems. We don't have deer but may have other small animals that can get into our yard. Do ...
view the full question and answer

Bugbane Leaf Blotch
January 24, 2013 - My bugbanes (Cimicifuga/Actaea) seem to suffer from black blotches on the leaves in the summer. This happens even when they have adequate moisture. I also see it on the ones growing wild. Is this a fu...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center