Are you planning out your vegetable garden for the coming summer? What about adding some strawberries to the veggie patch this year. Strawberries are easy to grow in vertical arrangements, letting you get a sizeable crop from a small area.
Everyone loves the sweet fruity scent of strawberries, and they taste great when you pick them from your garden and add them to smoothies, desserts, or fruit salads. Strawberries are a must-have in the garden this summer, but there’s one issue with growing these tasty berries.
The strawberry root weevil is the sworn enemy of all strawberry gardeners. These ferocious pests will take out your crop, leaving you with no berries come harvest time.
The strawberry root weevil is part of the beetle family, and you need to know how to identify and eliminate these pesky pests from your crop before they do any real damage to your strawberries. This guide gives you everything you need to know about the strawberry root weevil and how to protect your strawberries from this pest this summer.
Strawberry Root Weevil Species
It might surprise gardeners to learn there are three species of root weevil, and all of them enjoy eating strawberries as much as you. However, the weevil is more interested in the roots of your strawberry plants than the berries themselves.
The three types of weevils strawberry gardeners need to look out for include the following.
- The Black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus)
- The Rough strawberry root weevil (O. rugosostriatus)
- The Strawberry root weevil (O. ovatus)
Strawberries are perennial plants, meaning they can survive the winter season to continue to produce berries year after year. However, like all perennials, strawberries go through a period of winter dormancy where growth slows.
During the dormancy period, weevil larvae will feast on the roots of the plants to get the nutrition they need for fueling the life cycle. The weevils feed on the roots, damaging the structure so it can no longer support new growth.
As a result of weevil larvae infestations, your strawberry plants may experience stunted growth the following summer, or they might die and fail to come back in the spring. Fortunately, if you’re growing your strawberries in hydroponic setups, you won’t have to worry about the weevil larvae attacking your plants.
Similarly, if you’re purchasing your strawberry plants from a nursery during the spring, you won’t have to worry about weevil infestations in your plants. It’s also important to note that weevils not only enjoy dining on the succulent roots of strawberry plants, but they also enjoy eating other berries like blackberries and raspberries. Garners with these plants in their yard or veggie patch need to look out for the same signs of weevil infestation found in strawberries.
Typically, weevils are only a problem in the northern hemisphere, with European and American crops most at risk from crop damage attributed to this pest. It’s challenging to tell the three weevil species apart in the grub/larvae phase. During this stage of the lifecycle, all three species appear as white grubs featuring tan-colored heads.
As adults, black vine weevils and strawberry root weevils measure around eight to ten millimeters in length, featuring dark brown, reddish-brown, or black bodies. However, the identifying mark for the strawberry root weevil is the slight bend in its antennae, forming recognizable “elbows.”
The black vine weevil is the largest variety in the species, and some gardeners mistake them for ticks. However, ticks have four sets of legs, while weevils have three.
The Strawberry Root Weevil – Understanding the Life Cycle
Weevils breed into a single generation every year, with the adult weevils laying eggs near the base of the plant on, or just below, the soil surface. Typically, the weevils lay eggs from June through to September, with the larvae emerging as the winter months approach.
The strawberry root weevil and black vine weevil reproduce asexually. That means that all weevils have female characteristics and are capable of laying eggs. As the weevil larvae emerge during the late fall early winter, feeding on the roots of your strawberry plants.
After feeding all winter, the larvae pupate and turn into beetles in the spring, restarting the weevil lifecycle while destroying your strawberry crop.
The Strawberry Root Weevil – Common Habitats
As with all pests, the strawberry root weevil is most active at night. You’ll find them around the base of your strawberry plants during the daytime, and they migrate up the plants to feed on the leaves after dark. Gardeners that suspect they may have a weevil infestati9on should check their plants at night for signs of the pests.
During June through to August, strawberry root weevils may also accidentally enter your home. Before you freak out, it’s important to note that the weevils won’t go after your food, and they aren’t harmful to people or pets.
If you find strawberry root weevils roaming around your house, vacuum them up. If the weevils are inside your home, they’re likely in your veggie patch. So, best you go and check on your strawberries if you see signs of weevils wandering around your homestead.
What Do Strawberry Root Weevils Eat?
Strawberry root weevils eat the roots and foliage of your strawberry plants. The adult bugs prefer eating the leaves, leaving characteristic notched bite marks on the plant as they feed.
While the large beetles are a problem, it’s the larvae that do the real damage to your plants. The weevils destroy the root structure, sucking the nutrients and moisture out of the roots, causing stunted growth or failure of the plant.
How Do You Control Strawberry Root Weevils?
Controlling strawberry root weevil requires you to understand the lifecycle of this pest. After reading through our guide, you should have a good idea of how these pests grow and thrive in your garden. Here are some elimination strategies to get rid of the strawberry root weevil from your plants.
Chemical or Organic Control Methods
Fortunately, adult strawberry root weevils and black vine varieties are easy to control using pyrethroid insecticides. However, gardeners need to note that these insecticides are toxic, and they may cause the death of pollinators like bees.
If you’re going to use these chemical remedies, spray at night after the sun sets and in still wind conditions. Even those pyrethroid insecticides recommended for organic use can cause problems with the local beneficial insect populations.
Using chemical insecticides may require multiple applications to rid your strawberries of the weevils. Make sure you follow the mixing and application guidelines recommended by the manufacturer.
Using Nematodes to Control Strawberry Root Weevils
As a naturally occurring pest remedy, nematodes are a fantastic option for curbing the growth and spread of weevils around your strawberry plants. Since they are a natural remedy, they don’t even require registration with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) as a pest management product.
Nematodes are an excellent alternative to traditional chemical insecticides. They also have no toxic effect on pollinators, pets, and people, making them ideal for organic veggie gardens. Nematodes take time to show results, but once they establish control over the weevils, they’ll ensure they never come back to your plants.
After applying the nematodes to your strawberry plants, you’ll see the large beetles die off within the first two days. Once the beetles start feeding and begin to mature, nematodes start reproducing. These beneficial bugs keep hunting throughout the season and into the winter.
Ensure you keep your soil moist to give the nematodes the sustenance they need to survive and continue protecting your garden.
Preventing Strawberry Root Weevils
Unfortunately, many gardeners don’t notice weevil infestations until well into the springtime. The weak growth of the strawberry plants is a dead giveaway that root weevils are infesting your crop.
To get a good idea of the extent of the problem, take a flashlight and inspect your plants at night; you should find the adult weevils crawling on your plants. The adult bugs don’t fly, making them easier to spot.
To prevent strawberry weevils from feeding on your crop, spray the plants with a diluted neem oil solution. The bugs hate the taste of the neem, and they’ll wander off to find something else to eat.
Gardeners can also lay cardboard traps for the weevils, presenting the interior of the small cardboard box with the weevil’s favorite food, strawberry leaves. If you find weevils on your plants, remove them by hand.
Controlling Strawberry Root Weevils FAQ
Q: Is there any way to get rid of strawberry root weevils on my plants without using toxic insecticides?
A: Yes, methods like neem oil and nematodes offer you the best option for clearing your plants of any weevils destroying your crops. Planting annually and rotating crops also helps.
Q: Can weevils get into my home?
A: Yes, if there are weevils in your veggie garden, they may wander into your home looking for other food sources. Weevils aren’t dangerous, and they won’t find their way into your pantry to eat your food. Vacuum them up to get rid of them, and check your strawberry plants for signs of infestation.