What is a Weevil?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A weevil is a beetle in the family Curculionoidea, which happens to be extremely large and quite diverse. Many people are familiar with boll and grain weevils, pests which cause a great deal of damage to crops, but there are many more weevil varieties in the world. As a general rule, weevils are viewed as pests, since they are destructive, and people take steps to avoid weevil infestations.

Grain weevils can attack grains, such as corn, as it grows in the field.
Grain weevils can attack grains, such as corn, as it grows in the field.

Humans have been aware of the presence of weevils for centuries. During times of famine, historians have written about eating weevil infested grain out of desperation, for example, and the conditions on board ships through the 19th century are often illustrated with the skin crawling thought of eating biscuits with weevils in them. Weevils have also historically been viewed as one among many crop pests which can cause serious economic damage.

Farmers are wary of weevils, as they can cause serious economic damage in agriculture.
Farmers are wary of weevils, as they can cause serious economic damage in agriculture.

The most distinctive feature of a weevil is its head. Most weevils have elongated heads which look like pronounced snouts, leading to the alternate name of “snout beetle.” Most weevils are wingless, and many have antennae which fold when not in use. The color and size of a weevil can vary, and various subgroups within the weevil family infest different things, from fungi to roots. In all cases, weevils are famed for their destructiveness and ability to eat through a surprising volume of material in a day.

The boll weevil attacks balls of cotton as they develop, laying eggs which hatch into larvae which eat their way out of the cotton, destroying it in the process. Grain weevils attack grains both as they grow in the field and as they lie in storage, and this type of weevil is familiar to many people. In addition to attacking whole grains like corn, wheat, and rice, grain weevils will also happily nest in flour, bread, biscuits, and other grain products.

In addition to the sheer squick factor of eating weevils, it is also dangerous to eat products with weevils in them because some weevils carry disease. If you notice weevils in your cupboards, you should immediately discard the infested food and check all of your other grains. It is also a good idea to empty the cupboard and clean it out entirely. You can reduce the risk of weevil infestation by keeping grains in airtight containers and not keeping them for more than a year. This will also reduce the risk of having grains go rancid from their stored fats.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Weevils are harmless. I very much doubt your son throwing up has anything to do with the fact that he ate a weevil.

Weevils are tiny. I'm sure many people have eaten them without even knowing, and have had no ill effects from it.


My son ate a weevil in a tamarind plant. Is it dangerous? He has been throwing up ever since.


i see these little guys in my parrot's food. it's so strange how they got in my house and in my parrot's food. when i took them out outside at least over 100 were in there.


i live near an allotment and i have weevil bugs coming out of my walls. i have killed a few but this weevil squirts yellow stuff. can you tell me what kind they are? also are they dangerous? also how do i get rid of them? please help as i have found them in my sons crib! which he is only 8 days old. can they hurt him?


I have these little bugs in my bathroom that I find sometimes on the baseboards that look like weevils. Do you know what it could be and what to do about it?

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