By Julia Lindsay
Those who spent much time outdoors in Appalachia this summer might have found themselves bespeckled with weevils. A black, vegetarian bug about three millimeters in length, yellow-poplar weevils materialize annually each spring and hibernate by late July.
This year, an outbreak unparalleled for the past 40 years has garnered concerns, mostly due to the weevil’s similar appearance to disease-carrying deer ticks. An entomologist at West Virginia University, Dr. Daniel Frank, explains that while deer ticks have eight legs, a weevil has six. “The weevil looks like it has a little snout,” he adds, unlike the deer tick.
He posits that this deluge of weevils that spread from West Virginia and Pennsylvania to North Carolina could have resulted from favorable environmental conditions or low numbers of weevil predators, like parasitic wasps. Weevils prefer to feed on only a few species of trees, such as yellow poplars and magnolias. Though weevils’ increased numbers will impact young or damaged trees, Frank says, “regions have experienced episodes like this through history,” and he assures little to no lasting environmental effect.