Wonderful Weevils

Thank you to Katja Schulz on Flickr for this excellent photo – you truly captured the cuteness of this wonderful weevil.

Weevils are so cute. Somehow I only became aware of their existence this year, and I don’t know how I’ve been living without them. Just look at that face! The big eyes, the comically elongated nose – they’re absolutely adorable. And they’re also called snout beetles! Snout beetles! It’s too much.

Unfortunately, there are probably a lot of people who don’t share my fondness for these goofy-looking insects. The snout beetle’s silly snout actually has a set of jaws on the end of it that the beetle uses to chew through tough food, such as seeds and nuts… or to plow through your cereal box. Snout beetles are infamous pests that love to ransack gardens and cupboards alike for a range of plants and dry foods, earning them a place in the “pantry pest” club. However, if you find weevils anywhere besides your kitchen, they shouldn’t be much of a nuisance unless you’re just a coldhearted arthropod-hater who doesn’t enjoy the sight of their cute little faces.

I’m kidding, you can kick them out if you so desire. However, weevils that you find away from your food really won’t do any damage to your infrastructure and will just mind their own business if you let them hang around. And who wouldn’t want a snout beetle for a housemate?

One of the reasons weevils can be annoying in the agricultural sense is that they’re very picky eaters. Not only do most species only prefer certain plants, but they’ll generally only eat or lay their eggs in one part of that plant, such as the stem, the roots, or the seeds. Some might call it wasteful – snout beetles call it expertise.

There are more than 50,000 true weevils in the family Curculionidae, and each one is unique and adorable in its own way. Not only do weevils sport a variety of colors, but they also come in different shapes (the giraffe weevil isn’t a true weevil but I included a link to its picture anyway because this incredible thing must be seen). Some are big, some are small, some can fly, others crawl – Curculionidae is the largest of the beetle families, so it makes sense that it would have a bit of variety.

While most weevils aren’t actually pesky at all, the boll weevil kind of gave snout beetles a bad rap when it single-handedly decimated the cotton industry for decades. The boll weevil larvae and pupae would live inside the cotton bolls and eat them from the inside out, causing mass destruction to cotton yields. It was only eradicated in the latter half of the 20th century and still causes some issues in Texas, so I wouldn’t blame anyone for still having sore feelings towards this particular weevil.

Hmm… the more I learn about weevils, the more I understand why a lot of people don’t like them very much. And the more I’m forced to accept the fact that just because something is cute, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily beneficial. Snout beetles are an important part of their respective ecosystems and food webs, but they still cause a lot of agricultural damage every year. If only there was a way to get the cuteness without the mischief.

To everyone battling weevils in the field and in the pantry, my apologies on behalf of these naughty arthropods. And to anyone who randomly found a weevil in their house that they don’t know what to do with – just send it my way.

They may be annoying, but I still think they’re cute.

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