Black Vine Weevil Infestation in a Garden

Black vine weevil (David Short via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0)

Black vine weevils (Otiorhynchus sulcatus) are a destructive pest that can cause significant damage to many ornamental and fruit plants in gardens. They feed on the roots, leaves, and stems of the plants they infest, causing wilting, yellowing, stunted growth, and even death in severe cases. The adult weevils feed on the leaves at night, causing notching and irregular feeding damage, while the larvae feed on the roots, causing significant root damage and reducing the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. These pests are difficult to control once established, and infestations can quickly spread from plant to plant.


  • Leaf damage: The adult weevils feed on the leaves of plants, causing notching or irregular feeding damage, particularly on the edges of the leaves. This damage is usually most severe on young leaves and can cause them to curl and become deformed.
  • Wilting: As the weevils feed on the roots, the plant may start to wilt, particularly during hot or dry weather. The wilting may be more pronounced on one side of the plant, and the leaves may become yellow or brown.
  • Stunted growth: The larvae feed on the roots of the plant, causing significant root damage and reducing the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients. This can lead to stunted growth, slow plant development, and reduced flowering.
  • Presence of frass: As the larvae feed on the roots, they produce a sawdust-like material called frass. This material can accumulate near the base of the plant, indicating the presence of larvae in the soil.
  • Presence of weevils: Adult weevils are active at night and can often be seen on the plant or in the soil. They are usually dark brown to black in color, with a snout-like nose, and a humpbacked appearance. Larvae are white, legless grubs with brown heads and grow up to 20mm in length. They can be found in the soil or in the roots of the plant.

What is a Black Vine Weevil

It’s important to be able to identify black vine weevils in order to effectively treat and control infestations. By recognizing the distinctive appearance of the adult weevils, larvae, and egg masses, gardeners can monitor their plants and take appropriate action to prevent damage.

  • Adults: The adult black vine weevils are approximately 7-10mm in length and have a distinctive, elongated, snout-like nose. They have a humpbacked appearance, with a curved thorax and a broad, elongated body. The adult weevils are dark brown to black in color and have serrated antennae and short, stout legs.
  • Larvae: The larvae are white, legless grubs with brown heads and grow up to 20mm in length. They have a plump, C-shaped body, and are found in the soil or in the roots of the plants.
  • Egg masses: The female weevils lay their eggs in masses on the surface of the soil or in crevices in the bark of the plant. The eggs are small, white, and oval-shaped.

Treating a Black Vine Weevil Infestation

It may be necessary to use multiple methods to effectively control black vine weevil infestations. For example, physical control methods, such as hand picking and barrier protection, can be used in combination with chemical controls, such as insecticides, to reduce the population of adult weevils and larvae.

Physical Control Methods

  • Hand picking: This method involves physically removing adult weevils from the plants and surrounding soil. To do this, gardeners can:
    • Inspect the plants at night, when the weevils are active, using a flashlight to locate them.
    • Gently shake the plants to encourage the weevils to drop to the ground.
    • Collect the weevils and dispose of them by crushing them or placing them in soapy water.
  • Barrier protection: This method involves using physical barriers, such as fine mesh screening, to prevent adult weevils from accessing the plants. To use this method, gardeners can:
    • Cut a piece of fine mesh screening to fit around the base of the plant or the soil around the plant.
    • Secure the screening in place using stakes or other supports.
    • Check the screening regularly to ensure that it remains in place and that no weevils have found a way inside.

Cultural Control Methods

  • Proper watering: Maintaining proper soil moisture levels can help reduce stress on the plants and make them less attractive to black vine weevils. To do this, gardeners can:
    • Water the plants deeply and regularly, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings.
    • Avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot and other plant health problems.
  • Sanitation: Regularly removing dead leaves, stems, and other plant debris can reduce hiding places for adult weevils and larvae, making it easier to detect and control infestations. To do this, gardeners can:
    • Rake up fallen leaves and debris regularly.
    • Dispose of the debris in a sealed bag or compost it to reduce the risk of spreading the infestation.
  • Plant selection: Choosing plants that are less susceptible to black vine weevil damage can help reduce the likelihood of infestations. Gardeners can:
    • Research the specific needs and resistance of different plants before choosing them for their garden.
    • Plant species that are less attractive to the weevils, such as rhododendrons and boxwoods.
  • Natural predators: Some predators, such as birds, ground beetles, and parasitic wasps, feed on black vine weevils and can help reduce infestations. Encouraging these natural predators in the garden by providing food, shelter, and water sources can help control black vine weevil populations.

Chemical Control Methods

  • Insecticides: Chemical controls, such as insecticides, can be used to control adult weevils and larvae. To use this method, gardeners can:
    • Choose an insecticide that is specifically labeled for use against black vine weevils.
    • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, including the recommended application rate and timing.
    • Apply the insecticide directly to the plants or to the soil around the base of the plant, depending on the product and the target pest.
  • Soil drench: A soil drench can be applied to the soil around the base of the plant to control larvae. To use this method, gardeners can:
    • Mix an insecticide with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Apply the mixture directly to the soil around the base of the plant, being careful not to splash it onto the leaves or stem.
    • Repeat the application at the recommended intervals until the larvae are controlled.