Waiter, There’s a Dead Wasp in My Fig…

Waiter, There’s a Dead Wasp in My Fig…

Cecilia Estreich Aug 3 , 2016

If you’re squeamish and enjoy eating figs, you might want to sit this one out.

Our resident produce expert, Charlie Balducci, recently taught us that figs are full of partially digested wasp corpses.  We didn’t want to believe him because we were snacking on tiger figs  at the time.  But after learning the full story, we believe that nature’s majesty triumphs over ickiness. 


How Does It Work?

It turns out that figs are not actually a fruit.  Instead, they’re inverted flowers with a very unique procreation requirement—they must be pollinated by a species of tiny wasps.  To do this, the wasp shimmies her way through a narrow opening at the bottom of the male fig flower to lay her eggs.  Once the eggs hatch, the baby wasps mate and go through a life cycle that concludes with the male wasps dying and the pregnant female wasps exiting the fig loaded up with pollen.  These female wasps will now seek new figs in which to lay their eggs.


This is where things get interesting.  Fig wasps can only lay their eggs in male figs, but nature tricks them into entering female figs.  Female figs are anatomically different; they have no wasp egg receptacles and a narrower opening that tears off the female wasp’s wings as she enters (we warned you that this story was gruesome…) Once the fig wasp makes it inside the female fig, she is not able to lay her eggs.  But, in a miraculous example of symbiosis, she successfully pollinates the flower with the pollen from the last male fig she inhabited.   Sadly, without her wings, she’s trapped in fig and is digested by enzymes in the fruit.


Want proof of this biological mayhem and trickery?  Check out this Youtube video some guy shot of a female fig wasp entering a fig.


Still Hungry?

If you aren’t disgusted yet, we invite you to browse our selection of figs.  They’re incredible right now, as long as you try not to think about all those dead wasps.

Arizona Black Mission Fig:



California Black Mission Fig:




Tiger Fig:


White Fig:




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