En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Damage from feral hogs
September 30, 2009 - Hello. What extent of damage can be expected when planting wildflower seeds in an area regularly visited by feral hogs? In some cases do the hogs actually help plant the seed as they root around? ...
view the full question and answer

Fasciation on brown eyed Susan
August 28, 2005 - I have a flower in my garden that blooms every year. This year I have a very strange breed--there is a double flower. I do not know the name of the flower or what kind it is. I only know we nickname...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Live Oak in Boerne TX
April 24, 2011 - I had my large Live Oak trimmed last year. This spring there seems to be a problem with leaf growth. Most leaves are small in nature and appear to have been attacked possibly by bugs. Many of the bran...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves on weeping willow
August 03, 2008 - We have a 4 year old Weeping Willow, 12+/- ft. tall and this week the leaves are starting to become yellow. This willow is full and robust in appearance, best it's ever looked. We have 2 other Wee...
view the full question and answer

Reason for die-back of native Mahonia repens
April 01, 2008 - I have several mahonia repens plants planted on my property. This is the third spring for them and I have noticed that they look like they might be dying out. The leaves have turned brown and are cu...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center