Boll Weevil (Anthonomus grandis)
Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Boll Weevil.
Updated: 6/11/2018; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Boll Weevil is historically known as the greatest pest that cotton plants growing in the South have ever faced.
The bane of cotton farmers in the late 19th and early 20th century, the Boll Weevil has been controlled and managed with good results in the 21st century. The only plant this particular weevil attacks is cotton, which happens to comprise the most popular fabric in North America. After heavy use of pesticides to reduce Boll Weevil populations did not completely eradicate their threat to cotton crops, the cotton plant itself was genetically altered to eliminate the Boll Weevil's interest in eating it. The Boll Weevil Eradication Program (BWEP) was initiated and a gene was inserted into the cotton plant's DNA that allowed the cotton plant to produce a chemical protein that is toxic to Boll Weevils. The effectiveness of this genetically modified cotton led to the drastic reduction in the amount of pesticides that are used on cotton plants.
A small, but growing percentage of farmers do not use the genetically altered cotton plant. They sell an organic cotton harvest, which has recently become more attractive in the American clothing, linen and bedding markets. Natural predators of the Boll Weevil include spiders, fire ants and a parasitic wasp native to Mexico.
The Boll Weevil itself has an extremely round body and can be a shade of brown or gray with short hairs covering its thorax and abdomen ('shoulders' and 'tail'). It has a tubular mouthpiece that resemble the shape of an anteater's snout or a downward-curved elephant's trunk. The Boll Weevil gets its name from the cotton bolls it destroyed Cotton bolls are hold the white tufts most people are familiar with. Bolls are the protective cases around the fibrous balls of cotton. As the cotton plant forms buds, the Boll Weevil devours the buds, preventing any usable cotton tuft from developing.
In a testament to man's adaptability, a monument to the Boll Weevil was erected in the town of Enterprise, Alabama in 1919. It still stands at the center of town, a reminder of what Coffee county overcame in the early 1900's. The county was a cotton-growing region that was devastated by the destructive habits of the Boll Weevil. The economic impact was severe, but farmers persisted and started to diversify what they planted and began growing peanuts and other crops instead of cotton. Within two years, Coffee County, Alabama was producing more peanuts than any other in the U.S. and economically thriving again. To commemorate their appreciation for the lessons learned, they created the country's only monument to a pest. It celebrates mankind's ability to deal with adversity and succeed.