School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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Figs without wasps?

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  • Fig: a hollow, round structure that holds the flowers of a fig tree and which is later filled with the sweet and seedy fig fruit.
  • Pollinate: moving pollen from the male to the female component of a flower as part of the fertilization process in plants. Birds and insects often move pollen from flower to flower when gathering nectar and they are therefore called pollinators... more

Figs without wasps?

sliced figWhile wasp bodies may add some crunch to a tasty fig, you probably won’t find a wasp inside a fig you are about to eat, even if you look really hard.

Some types of fig that are grown for human consumption have figs that ripen without pollination. It is also possible to trick plants into ripening figs without wasps by spraying them with plant hormones.

Even when figs are grown the old-fashioned way, with wasps, the wasp is long gone by the time the fig crosses your lips. Figs produce a chemical called “ficin” that breaks down the wasp bodies. Ficin is so effective at breaking down, or digesting, animal proteins that natives of Central America eat fig sap to treat intestinal worm infections.

fig newtonsSo, no, those fig-filled cookies you bought at the store are not full of dead wasps. But don’t despair. If you’re really interested in eating insects, Ask-A-Biologist has some great suggestions.

Still life with Figs and Bread by Luis Meléndez

Figs are so common that people even make art that features figs. This painting by Luis Meléndez is called Still Life with Figs and Bread.

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

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Still life with Figs and Bread by Luis Meléndez

Figs are so common that people even make art that features figs. This painting by Luis Meléndez is called Still Life with Figs and Bread.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.