Vine weevils.

There seem to be a growing number of ‘gardeners’ who are happy to leave ‘nature’ to take its course in their gardens. They are happy, or at least prepared, to put up with the damage wrought by slugs and snails, want dandelions to be regarded as desirable wild flowers and eschew the use of any and all chemicals. That’s fine, I have no problem with people doing what they please on their patch of land if it doesn’t impact me negatively to a significant degree. But, and I don’t aim to cause offence, it is not especially difficult to buy a piece of land and do nothing to it. It is not gardening. It is more challenging to buy a piece of land and manage it for the benefit of wildlife but it seems to me that there is a distinction between natural wildness, even managed natural wildness, and gardens. Clearly the distinction is very indistinct and everyone would draw the dividing line a little differently.

Over time nature can produce a generally stable equilibrium between a wide range of organisms but I doubt there is anywhere left on the planet where that equilibrium hasn’t been disrupted by our own overly successful species. There is no such equilibrium in my garden, where I will insist on growing plants that have had their natural pest and disease resistance bred out of them, in conditions conducive to the flourishing of heterotrophs that see only an abundant food supply. I feel obliged to intervene in an attempt at restoring a healthy balance.

Vine weevils are (according to Wikipedia) native to Europe but common in North America. They are a particularly damaging pest of plants grown in containers. I was always given to understand that this was because the larvae are vulnerable to drying out and that since potting composts are generally kept evenly moist, being difficult to wet if allowed to dry out, they are a great habitat for them.

While most of the damage we get is of plants growing in moist soilless compost in pots, we also find they can eat into the stems of succulents growing in dry compost, soil based or not.

For the last couple of months I have been venturing out with a torch several nights a week, to exercise a measure of control over our seemingly limitless slug population. It seems to work, generally when I have removed slugs from a plant in the evening, little or no further damage seems to have occurred by morning. Since early to mid June I have been spotting a number of vine weevil adults on certain plants. They may have been there earlier but seemed to be very soft shelled, so probably not. Some have been on plants in pots but the majority on one Aster growing in the ground and on primroses. None of the plants seem to be suffering seriously but knowing that each adult weevil could go on to lay 800-1000 eggs, each one beneath my boot feels like a significant event.

I was surprised to find so many on the Aster. It is well away from anything growing in pots, though there may have been container grown plants planted nearby. I lifted and potted a struggling Epimedium beside it some weeks back which may have been hosting larvae. The adults weevils have nibbled at the edges of the Aster leaves but not to the point of being conspicuous, though I have collected as many as seven in one night, so there must have been a goodly number of grubs on the roots of the Aster or something else nearby.

I have also found them in significant numbers (dammit, one is significant!) under the rims of pots and standing trays. Some plastic pots have rims that roll down, creating a perfect place for weevils to hide. Spot a notch on a fuchsia leaf and it is worth searching around for any suitable daytime hiding places, it or they will be there somewhere.

17 thoughts on “Vine weevils.

  1. I’m with you on the nature look. I think if I were to leave my garden for a year unattended it would be simply choked with bindweed, brambles, nettles and no end of ‘wildflowers’ from outside. But that is what the country lanes are for so I don’t feel guilty in removing the thugs. In fact my little patch of grass is now mostly dandelions and daisies. And although it has been suggested that we learn to live with S&S I am sure the people saying that probably do NOT live in the west country. I am doing my best to accommodate them by seeking out plants which are resistant to their attacks, but I’m not afraid to use nematodes or even the organic pellets when necessary. As for the plastic pots that have rims that roll down – I have found them a perfect hiding place for small snails too!

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    1. I am certain that my garden is of more value to wildlife as it is than it would be if left to its own devices. It is much more flowery than any of the hedgerows around here and for far longer, and there is clearly an abundance of popular food for molluscs, caterpillars and sundry other leaf eaters. The way I see it, chopping up slugs is feeding the soil fauna and flora, more natural than manure.

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  2. So good to read your comment; we cannot totally garden in the way we do with the plants we want and have a wildlife paradise, unless we have one piece set aside for that purpose.

    Recently, I have been finding vine weevil adults in broad daylight on the plants in the pots and have been able to despatch them. We repot regularly with our many potted plants and fiercely eyeball the root ball of the plants for vine weevil grubs and they are rarely spotted except on some incoming plants.

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    1. It may well be the case that one or two of our plants get a lot of grubs and are missed, then the adults quickly disperse to lots of new plants. We have quite a lot of slower growing plants that are not repotted every year.

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  3. There is a garden nearby that the owner has done as a “wildlife” garden. If something wants to grow there it is left. Purely my opinion but it’s not overly attractive🤭. A while back the owner asked me how I managed to have so many bees on the plants in my front garden……

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    1. You raise an important point; it’s all very well having pretty flowers for butterflies, but the caterpillar food plants and the damage the caterpillars do, are just as important. Bees need suitable habitat for nests, beetles need untidy places to hide. We can’t cherry pick things that attract the ‘nice’ critters then do everything possible to discourage the ‘nasty’. It’s a good thing vine weevil adults aren’t pretty to look at.

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  4. Fortunately, this is not a problem here.
    Your first comments about nature takings its course is amusing though. Butterfly gardens are a fad now, and besides the fad, people here like to stuff a lot of exotic plant material into their garden because they love nature so much. No one bothers to consider how very unnatural that is. The Santa Clara Valley was naturally grassy chaparral that burned regularly, with few trees. That is not something we want for our home gardens.

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    1. Humans were probably moving into southern England even as the ice retreated in the north. Some places will have had a few thousand years to develop without humans but that’s a very long time ago. Now it’s our responsibility to make informed choices about how we use the land and I’m not sure that treating ‘nature’ as a set of immutable laws helps us very much, given a growing population and rapidly changing climate.

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      1. Oh yes, I totally get it. The only people who were here prior to the Spanish did almost nothing to interfere with nature. Therefore, all the damage incurred happened just in the past few centuries, and MOSTLY in the past century. Yet, it was EXTREME within a very short time. Because the damage was so extensive, responsible resource management would actually promote recovery. Of course, no one wants to hear that.

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      2. Our ecosystems here can not be repaired, since exotic species can not be exterminated. Nonetheless, we should still do what we can to promote recovery, even if it is unpopular. The CZU Fire last year was horrid, and should have reminded people how bad the situation is for our local ecosystem, but instead, those who think of themselves as ‘environmentalists’ want to blame outsiders. Some actually want to protect exotic species that enhance the combustibility of the already combustible forests! Gads! It is a long story, and this is a crazy culture here.

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  5. Thanks for the extra detail on vine weevils. I thought I spotted one last week but he got away. Clearly I will have more than one! Time to be extra vigilant. Robin Lane Fox recently suggested that those who championed wild flower gardens had too much garden on their hands!

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    1. Excuse my rudeness in correcting you, but it’s she who got away, not he. The females reproduce parthenogenetically and males are rare or completely unknown. It’s another reason I dislike them so much. Robin Lane Fox might be right, but perhaps it’s better, if you have a garden that’s too large to cultivate intensively, to manage part of it for wildlife, assuming that doesn’t mean total neglect. Better than building houses on it, or using it for farming? How do wild flower gardens stack up against trees in environmental value? What do we need more of the most?

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  6. The desire to allow nature have its way among these “gardeners” you mention is generally selective. They may praise wildflowers but not thistles, dock and nettles, for examples. They wish to encourage wildlife into the garden but certainly not rats nor mice and, goodness spiders are not endured. They will feed the birds but hunt the pigeons and crows. They are being selective also as all gardeners are but imagine/claim their selections are more environmentally friendly. Pfffffff! A shower of twats!

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