Thursday, June 18, 2009

Evil bastards

We all have unwelcome garden visitors, Karen from Greenwalks posted yesterday about the raccoons in her yard. I’m hunting for more Gunnera chomping weevils and my friend Steve tells me there is a plant thief in his new neighborhood…bold enough to not only steal plants in pots but actually takes them right out of the ground! Rude!

My brother in Arizona is currently battling an evil beetle that’s attacking his Agaves. Evidently the beetles lay their eggs near the agave roots and then when they hatch the grubs feed on the roots. The agave starts to look unhappy, the bottom leaves start drooping and then when you pull on the Agave it sways side to side because the roots are disappearing. This is frustrating enough when it happens to a small plant but now he’s noticed that a big mama Agave in the front yard is under attack. It’s not looking good. To quote my brother “it will fall over one day and that will be the end.” If I remember right he said they tend to favor the dark blue/green varieties over the Americana.

His first run-in with this creature was a few years ago when his yuccas starting dying. He lost several mature plants. Evidently they especially love the yucca roots because they are fleshier than the agaves. I’ve always thought of yucca as being invincible, and loved them for that. They seem to grow in the most horrible conditions and thrive, that is until the evil beetle bastards get at them.

Here is a picture of a beetle chomping away – it’s a little hard to see but the black oval in the center is the back side of the beetle.
Here is one of his agaves…with the roots cleaned right off...The very top picture is one of the grubs. Have any of you had to deal with this horrible pest? We would love to hear about your battle, especially if you won. Any words of advice for my brother?


  1. AnonymousJune 18, 2009

    DG~~ Yikes. This is not the kind of thing we plant nerds want to hear. It's like a bad dream.

    Beneficial nematodes are supposed to eat the grub of the root weevil. I wonder if there is some kind of nematode that favors this horrid Agave-sucking creature.

    I smashed a weevil this morning with my bare hands. I deserve a star. :)

  2. This week I noticed red lily beetles in my garden, in addition to the hordes of tiny thrips. And I figured out one new rose has a virus. I was ready to thow my hands up in despair - why can't these nasty critters just go someplace else? I don't have any success stories, other than sprinkling granular systemic insecticide (Merit) around the most affected trees and shrubs. It works well but I'm trying not to use many chemicals, so it feels like a failure.

  3. Thanks for the link love, sorry about the critters! I have no experience with agaves or their predators, sorry, but I hope there is a non-evil-chemical solution. Seems like a toughie if they are underneath the plants. Hope he can figure it out, that sounds like a total nightmare! Watch out for that raccoon poop, hope that link about ringworm didn't freak you out too badly. Yuk all around!

  4. Those are some badass bugs, DG, and not in a kewl way.
    I have no wisdom to impart, but wish your brother good luck in figuring out a solution. Surely the nursery folks in his neck of the SW could provide some help?

  5. Loree, I'm so sorry, but your brother has met the most horrible, dreaded villain of the succulent kingdom - the Agave Snout Weevil - (or the Snout-Nosed Agave Weevil). It is a horror. There is no organic treatment, either - what can be worse?

    I would DIE! I'm dealing with a vole and a gopher right now - but I'd happily keep them if I can be assured that I'll never have to deal with an icky little grub/weevil that eats the roots out from under my Agaves. What a demon!

    Pam at Digging dealt with one last year - here is her post on the subject.
    you know Pam, always informative and telling it like it is. I hope it helps, and my thoughts are with your brother's agaves!

  6. Someone steals plants out of the ground? I would be furious!
    As for the natural pests, who knows, I like the nematode idea. Seems like some sort of natural predator would do the trick for the grubs. I hate this part, where you move from the promise of spring, into the emerging problems that show up as summer approaches. Why can't it all just be fresh and new and full of potential?

  7. Grace - with your bare hands? I am impressed!

    VW - sorry to hear you are fighting so many battles! Good luck, I know it's hard to bring out the big guns isn't it?

    Karen - it's a horrible situation. Germi gave me a link to a post Pam did about this very thing. It's below. Chilling.

    Jane - badass is right!

    Germi - thank you! I suspected you or Pam would have an answer. Such a horrible situation! Good luck with your vole and gopher. I've never had to deal with either one but have heard plenty of horror stories.

    Megan - I know can you believe it? Turns out one of the neighbors caught the thief on video but the picture was to fuzzy for a good i.d. - the suspect even lives in the neighborhood (this is happening in Seattle). Pam's post that Germi linked to is certainly scary reading for those of us that love agaves.

  8. Oh no! I feel for your brother. The snout-nosed weevil is a total menace to agaves and those who love them. Thanks, Germi, for offering my link. Here's a direct link to my post about the agave weevil.

  9. Hi! I live in Phoenix, AZ and those evil bastard weevils killed 10 of my agaves! The one that they had started in was a 6 foot tall and wide Agave Americana which turned into a huge putrid mess and we had to hire someone to haul it away. We tried treating all of the agaves with diazinon, but it must have been too late to save the agaves. Eventually, the diazinon did get rid of the grubs and beetles as we still have 3 agaves left unscathed. Check the Maricopa County Extension website or the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society website for more information. Sorry I can't be of more help. Good luck to your brother!

  10. I just lost a very old Century Agave to these little monsters! By the time I realized the Agave was being attacked, it was too late.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!