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Boll Weevil Control
Boll weevils are one of the most serious agricultural pests in the southern United States. Since their invasion from Mexico in the late 19th century, boll weevils have gone on to become the scourge of cotton growers everywhere. If you live in a state affected by boll weevils, you may be wondering how you can best control boll weevils in your home and garden. Well, read on and find out!
1. About Boll Weevils
Boll weevils take their name from their habit of both consuming and laying their eggs in the boll of the cotton plant, the protective covering that hides the tuft of cotton growing inside the plant. Because of this, boll weevils can have a massively destructive effect on cotton crops, and government efforts to eradicate these beetles have been undertaken at tremendous cost. Set against that, you may be wondering how you can possibly hope to get rid of the boll weevil in your home.
The good news is that boll weevils, like all weevils, are completely dependent on the cotton plant. They can’t feed or breed on any other type of plant, so unless you are growing cotton, you don’t have to worry about boll weevils infesting your home or garden. If you live in an area that has a high population of boll weevils, it is possible that you may see one inside your house that either wandered in by itself or come in on your clothes. But without cotton plants, this single weevil will be unable to breed and produce more boll weevils.
However, there are many different types of weevils in the world – around 60, 000 species that we know of. Many of them look very similar to the boll weevil, but they feed on plants that you may well have in your garden. These are the weevils you need to watch out for, more so than the boll weevil that only concerns itself with cotton plants. So let’s talk a little about ways to get rid of the weevils in your life.
2. How To Control Weevils In Your Garden
Weevils, no matter what their species, are a type of beetle. Unlike some beetles, weevils are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. So if you are finding a lot of damage to the plants in your garden, it’s quite possible that weevils are the culprit. If you have a high population of weevils in your garden, it may be the case that you will see them everywhere, including inside your house! But don’t panic. Most species of weevil have no interest in anything inside your house. They may come inside to escape extreme weather outdoors, but they usually won’t last long away from their particular food source. Of course, in any group with 60,000 species in it, there are exceptions to this. There are weevils like the rice weevil or the granary weevil that will feed on stored food products in your kitchens such as rice and flour. These tiny, 6mm long bugs will happily live out their entire life cycle in your kitchen. So if you are finding small bugs in your dried food products, don’t hesitate. Throw the contaminated food away immediately, before the problem spreads.
If, on the other hand, the weevils are in your garden, there are other remedies you can try.
The key to weevil control is to find their food source. As mentioned earlier, weevils are very specialized, and different types of weevils feed on different plants. Some weevils attack the plant’s roots and devour the plant from the ground up. Others eat the leaves and make it impossible for the plant to photosynthesize. Whatever type of weevil you have in your garden, you will most probably find that they are localized to one or two particular types of plants. For instance, some weevils only eat strawberry plants. Others only eat shrubs. Find the plants in your garden that are the most damaged by weevils, or that have the highest amount of weevils on or around them, and you are halfway to eliminating the problem.
3. How To Get Rid Of Boll Weevil
Once you find the plants that the weevils are feeding on in your garden, there are a few different methods of control available to you.
The simplest and most obvious one is to simply pick the adult weevils off the plant. If your eyesight is good and your hands are steady, you can remove a lot of weevils in this way. Be warned, though, that this will not get rid of the larvae. And when the larvae become adults, you will have to do this again. It’s best to think of it as a regular gardening chore, like weeding that should be done as often as possible in order to keep the number of weevils in your garden under control. Weevils are most active at night, so it’s best to do this after dark, using a flashlight to find the weevils.
There are also many commercially available pesticides that you can use to get rid of weevils. In large scale farms, where boll weevils are an issue, this is often the only way to address these troublesome insects. But in your own home and garden, you may be reluctant to apply pesticides, especially if you were intending to eat the plants you grow yourself. In that case, you may be interested in trying a few home remedies before you resort to pesticides.
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4. Home Remedies To Kill Boll Weevil
Like all animals, weevils need water to live. As a result, they are attracted to water wherever they can find out. By leaving a small dish of water next to any plants that are affected by weevil populations, you may draw the weevils down to the water where they will crawl into the dish and drown.
Another very environmentally friendly method you could try to get rid of weevils in your garden is to use bay leaves. Weevils hate the smell of bay leaves, and distributing some leaves around the plants you want to protect may deter the weevils from attacking. If you have a suitable climate, you could even try growing your own bay leaves, so that this method will be not only completely safe but also completely free.
Another smell that is reputed to repel weevils is the smell of sulfur. Sulfur might not seem like the easiest thing for the regular householder to get their hands on, but actually, it’s quite easy. Simply get yourself some books of matches and leave them open next to your plants. The matches are coated in sulfur which allows them to ignite, and the smell of this sulfur may help to drive the weevils away.
Cedar oil acts as another effective insect repellent. Cedar trees are known for never having insect problems, and it’s thanks to the oil that they produce. While cedar oil smells great to us, to weevils, the smell is extremely offputting. Applying cedar oil to your plants may help to keep them weevil free. Just be aware that you will need to reapply every time it rains or whenever you water the plants.
You could also consider some environmental controls. This simply means changing the environment in your garden to make it less attractive to weevils. One way to do this is to remove mulch around your plants and only water them when necessary. Weevils, both in the larval and adult stages, prefer moist soil, and so by keeping the soil as dry as possible, you will make your garden a far less attractive habitat for all stages of the weevil lifecycle.
Another home remedy for weevils in the garden takes advantage of the fact that weevils can’t fly. In order to move from plant to plant, they need to climb down and walk across the ground. This means that you can protect your plants by making them inaccessible. There are sticky products you can buy that you can apply to the soil and prevent weevils from getting through. Even some double-sided tape might do the job. Just make sure that the plants you want to protect are surrounded completely. And also make sure that the plant’s leaves or branches don’t touch those of any other plant, or a wall or fence. Weevils can crawl up these surfaces and get onto plants that way, so be sure to isolate the plants as well as you can.
Diatomaceous earth can also be used as an effective control for weevils in the garden. You can buy this powder in garden centers or online. It is completely non-toxic and safe for your plants. Instead of being an actual pesticide, diatomaceous earth acts as a physical control for weevils. The seemingly fine powder is actually made up of sharp shards of shells which cut the weevil’s body when they try to crawl over it. The multiple lacerations in the weevil’s exoskeleton will cause it to dehydrate and die. For this reason, diatomaceous earth is a very effective and popular method of weevil control in the garden.
Another method of weevil control is to place burlap fabric at the base of plants and trees that the weevils like to feast on. The weevils will hide under the fabric during the day, but the coarse nature of the burlap will trap them in its fibers. Make sure to change out the fabric regularly and get rid of the weevils trapped inside.
Another popular method of weevil control is the use of parasitic nematodes. These tiny creatures are available at garden centers, usually in liquid form. You apply them via a spray, like a pesticide. But unlike regular pesticides, this spray is not a toxin. Instead, the nematodes will seek out and kill the weevils in your garden. Like the weevils themselves, these nematodes are highly specific in what they will and won’t feed on, so they pose no threat to other insects. Multiple applications of nematodes may be necessary throughout the year, but they offer a simple and effective solution to outdoor weevil problems. Plus, they are completely safe for the environment.
Besides their ability to hide, weevils lack effective defenses against predators. So it might be worth considering making your garden as friendly to predatory bugs as possible. Aphids, spiders and ants will all happily kill and eat weevils, so you might want to reconsider getting rid of these insects. If the ant population in your garden isn’t out of control, then maybe you shouldn’t reach for that can of insecticide. Let nature take its course, and let the ants do their thing. You might find that they will get rid of the weevils in your garden for you!
Avoid using broad spectrum pesticides in your garden wherever possible. While it’s tempting to rely on a spray to kill off the weevils in your garden, these sprays can do more harm than good by poisoning insects and arachnids that would otherwise eat the weevils and help protect your garden.
Certain smaller species of birds may also feed on weevils, so it may be worth considering hanging some bird feeders in your garden to attract small birds like sparrows and finches. Not only will these birds help by plucking weevils directly off the plants, but they will also fill your garden with their songs. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
5. Preventing Weevils
The best way to stop weevils from causing damage in your garden is to make sure they don’t get there in the first place. While this is difficult to achieve, there are certain steps you can take to try and minimize the number of weevils that will find their way into your garden.
If you find evidence of weevils in your potted plants, whether it’s adults of larva, get rid of the contaminated soil immediately. Don’t reuse it or throw it onto the compost heap. This will just spread the weevils around your garden.
If any of your plants have unexpectedly wilted or died, dig them out and carefully examine the root system. It’s possible that you have a weevil problem without realizing it. And if you do, you will need to act quickly to save the rest of your plants.
Consider using netting to isolate your plants from one another. That way, if one plant develops a weevil infestation, the netting may prevent the problem spreading to the rest of the plants in your garden. Of course, you will need to consider whether the plant needs to be pollinated by bees and whether the netting will hinder that process before deploying it.
6. Staying Weevil Free
On a large scale, weevils such as the boll weevil can be absolutely devastating. It’s estimated that the economic damage caused to cotton production by this one pest alone runs into hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
But you don’t need to be a large-scale farmer to have a problem with weevils. There are so many different types of these tiny beetles that there’s bound to be a plant in your garden that could fall victim to them. And when it happens, you will find yourself wondering what you can do to stop them in their tracks.
Like any pest problem, dealing with weevils in your garden requires a careful approach. It’s tempting to reach for the nearest spray can, but before you do that, you should be aware that improper application of pesticides can do more harm than good. By killing off beneficial insects that would otherwise prey on the weevils, you may actually be making it easier for the weevils to feed on and destroy your plants.
As farmers across the world are learning, it is best to use more sophisticated methods when trying to get rid of weevils. Nematodes, parasitic wasps, pheromone traps, natural repellents and predatory insects and birds are all valuable tools we can use to try to eradicate the problem of weevils in our gardens and farms. And the same goes for the few species of weevils that can be found inside the house, too. Instead of automatically using the strongest pesticide you can find, think about trying some of these other, more natural method first. Not only will the environment thank you, but you will be rewarded with a healthy and more vibrant garden that is a safer place for you and your family. The secret to controlling weevils in your garden is not to throw dangerous chemicals about carelessly, but to thoughtfully and systematically deal with the various factors that contribute to the problem of weevils. Only then can you be sure that you have safely rid your home and garden of all traces of weevil infestation.
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