Explore Plants

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
    
 

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:

 

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Time to trim oak trees in Austin
October 29, 2011 - We have several large oak trees in desperate need of a good trimming. Given that the trees have had a very stressful drought year, when would be the best time to trim them?
view the full question and answer

Recently planted Chinquapin Oak with browning leaves in Marlin, TX.
July 31, 2012 - We planted a Chinquapin Oak this in March 2012. As of July 21, 2012, the tips of the leaves on the lower branches are turning brown. We cannot see any insects. There does not appear to be any fungu...
view the full question and answer

Is it normal for the bark to fall off an oak tree in Austin, TX
May 02, 2013 - Is it normal for live oak bark to fall off when touched? I am afraid to get near them?
view the full question and answer

Wilting American Smoke Tree in Texas
April 21, 2013 - I planted a young American smoke tree last fall (mid-November) and it put out a good show of tentative new leaves this spring. Then to keep the tree form I clipped some little shrubby start ups at the...
view the full question and answer

Care of Styphnolobium affine, Eves necklace
October 05, 2007 - I have an 18 yr old Eve's Necklace tree that is dying from the "bottom up". It has only a few leaves at the very top of the tree. I have, connected to the gutter, a rain barrel from which the exc...
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.