What to Know About the Strawberry Root Weevil
Often called pantry pests, strawberry root weevils can be a real nuisance, especially when they invade your home. Here's what you need to know.
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The strawberry root weevil tries one’s patience more than it causes serious agricultural damage. It’s a type of beetle that — surprise, surprise — feeds on strawberry plants and roots, and sometimes other small fruits and mint.
What Are Strawberry Root Weevils?
A member of the Curculionidae super-family of beetles, the strawberry root weevil (AKA strawberry weevil, root weevil or just plain weevil) is relatively harmless. But these pantry pests can be annoying to homeowners, invading the neighborhood in droves during warm summer months.
The wingless adults enter dwellings through gaps and cracks in foundations, windows, doors and other openings. Once inside, you’ll find them nearly everywhere — cupboards, cabinets, bathroom floors and crawling on walls and ceilings.
How To Identify a Strawberry Root Weevil?
The strawberry root weevil is often mistaken for a tick, mostly due to its tiny size and dark reddish-brown-to-black color. The most obvious difference? Ticks have eight legs and strawberry root weevils only six.
Other features that set them apart are their rounded abdomens with bumpy textured shells, and the short elephant-like snouts where they keep their plant-eating mouthparts.
Where Do Strawberry Root Weevils Come From?
Native to North America, the strawberry root weevil (known by bug scientists as Otiorhynchus ovatus) is found in most parts of the U.S., as well as eastern and southern Canada.
Do Strawberry Root Weevils Bite?
No, fortunately. The strawberry root weevil doesn’t bite, sting or transmit disease. Although weevils have chomping mouthparts, they only use them to put holes in leaves. Their teeth are way too small to break the skin. It also doesn’t eat your stored food or infest pets and other animals.
Strawberry Root Weevil Life Cycle
The Small Fruit Fact Sheet by Cornell Cooperative Extension describes the strawberry root weevil’s life cycle as follows:
Adults emerge in late May to June from pupa in the soil. They eat notches in leaves at night.
After about 10 to 14 days, the adults lay their tiny pearly white eggs in the soil. Later the eggs change color to amber. Most eggs hatch after 10 days.
Larvae, AKA grubs, are creamy white and legless. They lie in a “C” position in the soil near the roots of strawberry plants.
This is the stage where weevils do the most destruction. The immature larvae feed on delicate roots and bark of wild and cultivated strawberry plants in mid-summer, often resulting in stunted, darkened plants. Have you heard about mock strawberries? Find out the difference between mock and wild strawberry plants.
Note: Both the adult and larva overwinter outdoors, hibernating in plant debris and soil. Remember, the grown-ups love to head indoors when the weather warms up.
Do Strawberry Root Weevils Damage Crops?
Not really. The strawberry root weevil is not invasive or particularly destructive. The injuries they cause to plants are relatively minor.
Note: The common strawberry root weevil should never be confused with the much more menacing strawberry weevil/clipper. The latter is a different species and can be a cause of significant crop losses.
How to Get Rid of Strawberry Root Weevils
The best ways to get rid of strawberry root weevils in the garden:
- Hand-pick the bugs off the plants: Remove adults and drop them in soapy water.
- Use sticky traps: Place this sticky product around the base of plants to keep adult weevils from climbing up to the foliage.
- Introduce nematodes: Place parasitic nematodes in the soil to eliminate grubs.
- Chemical insecticides: Try an insecticide with the active ingredient cyfluthrin for large infestations.
In the house:
- Vacuum them up: If pests are inside your home, suck them up in the vac and deposit the sealed bag in an outdoor garbage bin.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth: Spread naturally occurring diatomaceous earth around baseboards, under sinks, on windowsills and under stoves and cabinets. This substance is chemical-free (some is actually food grade) and safe around children and pets.
How To Prevent Strawberry Root Weevils
- Seal it up: Caulk and seal holes, gaps and other openings in your foundation and around doors and windows.
- Hydroponics: Grow strawberries hydroponically so there’s no soil for grubs to feed in.
- Grow as annuals/rotate crops: Plants strawberries as annuals or rotate crops every other year to other non-host plants to reduce weevil populations.
- Cover the soil: Place a plastic tarp over the soil during the hottest months to mitigate larva infestations.