Scyphophorus acupunctatus (agave weevil)
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Detection and Inspection
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Scyphophorus acupunctatus Gyllenhal, 1838
Preferred Common Name
- agave weevil
Other Scientific Names
- Rhynchophorus asperulus Le Conte, 1857
- Scyphophorus anthracinus Gyllenhal, 1838
- Scyphophorus interstitialis Gyllenhal, 1838
- Scyphophorus robustior Horn, 1873
International Common Names
- English: sisal borer, Mexican; sisal weevil
- Spanish: max del henequen
Local Common Names
- Germany: Bohrer, Mexikanischer Sisal-
- Netherlands: Agavesnuitkever
- Spain: max del henequen (Mexico)
- SCYPIN (Scyphophorus acupunctatus)
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Uniramia
- Class: Insecta
- Order: Coleoptera
- Family: Dryophthoridae
- Genus: Scyphophorus
- Species: Scyphophorus acupunctatus
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
The egg is a more or less regular ovoid, with only a slight difference in curvature at both ends; 1.6-1.75 mm in length and 0.7 mm in width; creamy-white with a thin, smooth chorion (Harris, 1936).
The larva was described and drawn in lateral view by Cotton (1924) and Harris (1936), and described by Anderson (1948).
The larva is creamy-white with yellow shiny pronotal plate. Body is moderately large, robust, strongly thickened through abdominal segments 4 and 5; body length up to 18 mm, maximum width 9 mm. Head dark or chestnut brown with convergent, non-pigmented stripes dorsally; free, slightly longer than broad, oval posteriorly; endocarina absent; head width 4.0-4.5 mm; mandibles dark brown or black. Legs absent. Typical abdominal segments with 3 dorsal folds. Asperities inconspicuous. Spiracles on abdominal segments distinct. Posterior margin of abdominal segment 9 with a pair of projections which are longer than broad; each projection bearing 3 elongate setae.
The pupa was very briefly described by Dugès (1886). It was also described and drawn in the ventral view by Harris (1936). It is from 15-19 mm in length. It is at first pale yellow, but darkens in colour as the black pigment of the developing weevil becomes visible through the skin.
Black and or/reddish, fully winged, without scales or dorsal setae, rather flattened dorsally. Antennae inserted at base of rostrum, funicle with segment 2 subequal in length to 3, terminal segment twice as wide as long, club corneous, basal segment with apex much wider than base, spongy apical part retracted, concave, not visible in lateral view. Rostrum almost straight, sinuate ventrally at base, in males broadly sulcate and bicarinate ventrally. Eyes very large, elongate, touching below. Pronotum rather oblong, but shape somewhat variable, subquadrate (then elytral interstices flat) or distinctly longer than wide (then elytral interstices convex), usually finely punctate, surface opaque or shining. Scutellum small, scarcely wider than base of sutural interval. Elytra with bases broadly emarginate, elytral interstices very finely punctate. Procoxae narrowly to moderately separated, separation narrower than rostral apex, mesocoxae separated by their diameter. Femora clavate with inner edge emarginate subapically; tibiae with inner edge straight, outer apices strongly bidentate, males with double rows of tibial setae, longer and denser than those of females, in latter, protibiae with much longer and more abundant hairs; tarsi with third segment dilated, bilobed, glabrous ventrally except for uniform, dense fringe of yellow, erect setae along apical border. Prosternal process overlapping mesosternum, mesepimera angulate anteriorly, often with irregular border, metasternum flat or gently tumid anteriorly, metepisterna at apical third distinctly narrower than greatest width of mesofemora, scarcely narrowed posteriorly. Abdomen with basal sternite in males with median, basal, sparsely pubescent depression. Body length 9-19 mm
DistributionTop of page
S. acupunctatus was first recorded outside the New World in Tanzania in 1914 (Harris, 1936). It subsequently appeared in Java in 1916 (Kalshoven, 1951, 1981). In Tanzania, it is recorded as far west as Lambeni, but is most common in the coastal belt from Moa to the Pangani River. It is least prevalent in estates at the foot of the Usambara Mountains, where the soil is of a red lateritic type, and termites are numerous, actively destroying sisal stumps (Harris, 1936).
S. acupunctatus was first found in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, by Muir in 1918, probably as an introduction with ornamental century plants. In Hawaii, the species is found only on the island of Oahu, where it can be locally abundant around Honolulu, boring in stems and leaves of sisal, sometimes killing the plants.
S. acupunctatus was first found in Java on a fibre plantation near Kediri, in 1916, again probably imported with plant material from North America where this species is endemic. From Java it was introduced to Sumatra's east coast and Aceh, where it was found in 1925 (Kalshoven, 1981).
S. acupunctatus was recorded for the first time in South Africa during 1975, a severe outbreak occurring in the Eastern Transvaal near Komatipoort on A. sisalina (Verbeek, 1976; Annecke and Moran, 1982).
S. acupunctatus was intercepted on Yucca originating from Guatemala in the Netherlands in 1980 (Rossem et al., 1981).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|France||Present, Few occurrences|
|Italy||Present, Few occurrences|
|Netherlands||Absent, Intercepted only|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present|
|United States||Present, Localized|
|Australia||Absent, Intercepted only|
|-Queensland||Absent, Intercepted only|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
In Curacao, both adults and larvae are found in large numbers in the stem and leaf bases of A. frankeera plants that have not yet formed a flower pole. They are also found attacking A. vivipara, occurring only in the 'bull end' of the flower pole; A. sisalana does not appear to be attacked (Ballou, 1920).
According to Harris (1936), A. amaniensis and F. gigantea (Mauritius hemp), growing in small plots on sisal plantations, particularly near the coast of Tanzania, are attacked severely and at Amani (2,500 to 3,000 feet higher), injury to A. sisalana and A. amaniensis is negligible, damage to A. ingens is more noticeable, whereas F. gigantea is disfigured by large holes in nearly all the leaves.
S. acupunctatus has been reported in the Morogoro area, Tanzania, mainly feeding on F. gigantea. It also occurred there on A. franzosinni, A. ingens and other garden species, but not in plantations of sisal, or plots of the highly susceptible A. amoniensis (Harris, 1943).
Sellers (1951) noted the following host plants for S. acupunctatus: A. shawii (California); A. deserti (California) and A. atrovirens (Mexico).
In Arizona, USA, populations were found on A. americana before flowering, whereas A. palmeri was colonized only after flowering. The weevil was also found in native A. schottii and A. parryi (Waring and Smith, 1986).
Y. elephantipes was introduced into Florida, USA, as a safe substitute for the native Y. aloifolia, which has dangerous needle-tipped leaves, but it is still only occasionally used in landscaping. In 1973, larvae were found boring into the roots and stems of this and other yuccas and agaves (Morton and Dawling, 1992).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Agave fourcroydes (henequen)||Agavaceae||Other|
|Agave sisalana (sisal hemp)||Agavaceae||Main|
|Dracaena draco (dragon tree)||Agavaceae||Other|
|Polianthes tuberosa (tuberose)||Agavaceae||Other|
|Yucca aloifolia (Spanish bayonet)||Agavaceae||Other|
|Yucca elephantipes (Spineless yucca)||Agavaceae||Other|
|Yucca glauca (great plains yucca)||Agavaceae||Other|
Growth StagesTop of page
SymptomsTop of page
The most obvious symptoms are leaf holes 1 cm in diameter, and where these are observed on mature leaves, six or seven leaves on the same plant are usually also affected. The younger the leaf, the nearer the hole is to the tip. These are the result of the weevil boring into hearts of the plants under 2 years old when the young leaves are still unfolded. When plants are healthy, injury does not develop further, but when growth is not sufficiently vigorous around the perforations, entrance of rot-causing organisms can occur. These infect the central shoot, which becomes red and soft, and the plant dies. Large suckers used for planting are more liable to serious injury than bulbils, which are damaged by the weevil penetrating between the bases of the outer leaves into the bulb, or small suckers with newly cut bases, which also attract feeding. Deep planting and injury to the leaf bases are, however, the primary causes of the death of the plants in many cases, the weevil acting only as a secondary pest. Large, healthy sisal plants are sometimes attacked by the adults when the leaves are still part of the heart or central shoot. When cut, the leaves are found to have areas of brown, dried-out epidermis approximately 20 cm from the base. This causes discoloration of the fibres, but the actual damage to them is not considerable. This type of injury is exceptional in that it appears to depend on the population density of the weevils and not on the health of the plants (Harris, 1936).
In Tanzania, S. acupunctatus was originally recorded as ovipositing in the hearts of sisal plants, in which the resulting larvae fed so that the leaves, when unfolded, appeared as if riddled by bullets. In 1931, a new form of injury was observed in the Pangani district. Innumerable fine holes, as if made with a needle, occurred in the outer heart leaves on the outer surface of the leaf-edge approximately 5 cm from the base. The injury often becomes noticeable only after 1-2 years, when the large percentage of discolored fibres attracts attention (Schwencke, 1934).
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Leaves / external feeding|
|Leaves / necrotic areas|
|Stems / internal discoloration|
|Stems / internal feeding|
|Stems / internal red necrosis|
|Stems / mould growth on lesion|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Eggs are laid in batches of two to six at a time in bases of young bulbils or suckers, or in the hole made by the adult weevil in the central shoot of a larger plant. Usually only one or two larvae develop, but plants in which the flower pole has been cut or dead stumps generally support more larvae. Eggs survive only if there is a certain amount of moisture, and larvae also die if exposed to dry conditions. Larvae emerging from eggs laid in perforated central shoots make small channels by eating out the soft epidermal layers of two closely pressed leaves, and thus move away from the hole made by the adult itself. This channel increases in diameter with larval growth and follows an erratic course. Where general infection of the shoot has not taken place, larvae do not appear to wander far from the original hole, but return later to complete the work of the adult in boring right through the shoot, and pupate in the hole thus made. Larvae in the base of a young plant or in a larger plant where the heart has died bore irregular channels through the tissues until their development is complete. In Tanzania, egg, larval and pupal stages last 3-4, 28-55 and 19-36 days, respectively; the larvae bore through the central shoot or make irregular tunnels through the tissues until full-grown, and pupate in cocoons made from fibre and leaf debris, cemented together lightly on the inside. Larvae and pupae both develop most rapidly during the rainy season. The adult female takes a minimum period of 25 days after emerging to reach sexual maturity, so that 11 weeks are needed to complete the life cycle resulting in the possibility of 4 generations a year. Three females produced on average 62 eggs each over a period of 3 months (Harris, 1936).
There is some evidence that relatively dry seasons are also periods of increased weevil activity, but low average rainfall is not in itself conducive to weevil attack (Harris, 1936).
Waring and Smith (1986) observed that sisal fibres from agave leaves were typically incorporated into cocoons, and that most cocoons were found in leaf bases where sisal is readily available to larvae. According to Kalshoven (1981), the cocoon is approximately 2.5 cm in length and sometimes covered with clay-like material. Development in Indonesia takes 2 to 3 months in the lowlands.
Investigations undertaken in Tanzania during 1933 showed that living agave plants are attacked only for feeding, oviposition being confined to dead tissues such as those of cut stems split open to facilitate drying before burning (Schwencke, 1934).
According to Custodio (1944), the eggs of S. acupunctatus are laid on the bracts of leaves and the larvae pupate in their galleries.
In Kenya, egg, larval, prepupal and pupal stages last 3-5, 21-58, 4-10 and 7-23 days, respectively, and complete development requires 50-90 days. Females lay 25-50 eggs each in a moist environment over 6 months, at a rate of approximately two a week (Lock, 1958).
In Yucatan, Mexico, adults appear in agave plantations with the advent of cold weather in November and December. Mating occurs at the end of March or early in April, oviposition taking place 15 to 20 days later. Incubation requires 39 to 40 days, with larvae emerging and feeding from May to July. A cocoon is spun before pupation (August to October), and the adults appear in November. There is thus only one generation a year. The climate of Yucatan is hot and dry with limited rainfall. The dry season lasts from October to May, with the hottest months being March and April, just prior to the rains. The rainy season is thus occupied by the immature stages, whereas the 6 months of dry weather are spent as adults (Harris, 1936).
Laboratory studies concerning the biology of S. acupunctatus performed in Mexico during 1976 (25(C and 65-85% RH) revealed that the life cycle lasted 68-73 days. Of 174 larvae, only 9 completed their development to the adult stage. In 1977, when rearing was carried out at 27(C and 62-69% RH, only 8 adults were obtained from 124 larvae, the average length of the life cycle being 36 days (Ramirez, 1978).
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
The carabid beetle Morion georgiae and histerid beetle Hololepta yucateca were recorded as predators of larvae in Mexico, but their role as biological control agents has not been thoroughly evaluated (Halffter, 1957).
Sellers (1957) concluded that the sisal weevil was not a suitable target for biological control.
ImpactTop of page
Agave decline, a fatal condition occurring in ornamental agaves of south-western USA, is associated with larval infestations of S. acupunctatus. Besides causing mechanical damage and consuming stored resources, larvae may be involved in symbiotic relationships with microorganisms that break down plant tissues (Waring and Smith, 1986). The fungal pathogen Aspergillus niger induces rotting in agaves that have been attacked by S. acupunctatus (Wallace and Diekmahns, 1952; Clinton and Peregrine, 1963). Waring and Smith (1986) showed that S. acupunctatus is the primary colonizer species and has a role in initiating stem and leaf rots.
S. acupunctatus is one of the principal insect pests of A. fourcroydes (fibre hemp or henequen) which is widely grown in Mexico. It feeds on all parts of the plant, although it is most common in the central leaves, and severe infestation destroys the fibres and often the whole plant (Custudio, 1944; Halffter, 1957). Yield losses of 40% have been reported in northern Yucatan, Mexico (Ramirez, 1984).
In Tanzania, sisal plants suffering from stem or bole rot, which is normally caused by A. niger, are often heavily infested with S. acupunctatus. Wienik (1967) showed that A. niger fungal spores are ingested by adult weevils, and that they are still viable and pathogenic after passing through the alimentary canal of the insect. Although the weevil cannot be held primarily responsible for spreading bole rot, it may aid its spread.
According to Kalshoven (1981), S. acupunctatus can be very destructive in agave nurseries in Indonesia. After World War I, the pest was very serious on Sumatra's east coast because of inadequate maintenance of plantations.
Detection and InspectionTop of page
Cut open stems and leaf bases of young or weakened Agave, Furcraea and Yucca plants and look for black-coloured weevils, 9-19 mm in length and creamy white, or legless larvae with brown heads (up to 18 mm in length). Larvae can be specifically searched for by cutting open the stem base as they bore into the tender, subterranean tissues.
Leaves of large, healthy sisal plants, when the heart of the central shoot is exposed, may show areas of brown, dried out epidermis approximately 20 cm from the base, and discoloration of the fibres.
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
The insect is commonly introduced into new areas with planting material, so such material should only be obtained from localities where S. acupunctatus does not occur (Ballou, 1920).
Plants that have finished flowering are a potential source of infestation, and old stumps provide a breeding ground for at least 8 months. Consequently, the only effective control is to burn all residues on land recently cleared of old sisal before new plantings are made. Where the weevils are numerous, plants should be planted early, so that they may be well-rooted before the dry season, and they should not be set too deeply with only vigorous young suckers being used. Split stumps laid face downwards make good traps if they are examined for weevils every second day. They must be burnt within 10 weeks of the first cutting, or they will develop into breeding locations. Workers should be employed to trap and collect weevils and destroy potential breeding spots at all times, particularly just before, and during, the rainy season (Harris, 1934).
Planting material dipped in dimethoate solution before planting retained concentrations toxic to weevils for a period of 10 weeks.
Effects of insecticide treatments on damage in sisal bulbil nurseries located in Tanzania were studied by Hopkinson and Materu (1970b). Isobenzan gave the best results. To concentrate the insecticide at the base of the plant, it should be applied to the centre of each plant individually, or as a spray along the row. Immersing bulbils in a solution of dimethoate before planting gave control for 10 weeks, but this method is of little benefit as most weevil damage usually occurs in the second rainy season after planting. As levels of infestation in these tests was high only in small isolated nurseries, it was concluded that the application of insecticides was rarely justified in estate practice.
Spraying split-bole traps with diazinon did not reduce the number of weevils captured.
In Yucatan, Mexico, the bases of healthy leaves attracted adults and these were used to monitor population dynamics (Ramirez, 1984). Populations were large in the wet season (June-October) and population size was statistically correlated with rainfall.
ReferencesTop of page
Anderson WH, 1948. Larvae of some genera of Calendrinae (= Rhynchophorinae) and Stromboscerinae. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 41:413-437.
Aquino Bolaños T; Pozo Velázquez E; Âlvarez Hernández U; Delgado Gamboa JR, 2014. Host plants of the agave weevil Scyphophorus acupunctatus (Gyllenhal) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in Oaxaca, Mexico. (Plantas hospedantes del picudo del agave Scyphophorus acupunctatus (Gyllenhal) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) en Oaxaca, México.) Southwestern Entomologist, 39(1):163-169. http://sswe.tamu.edu/
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Setliff G P, Anderson J A, 2011. First record of the agave snout weevil, Scyphophorus acupunctatus Gyllenhal (Coleoptera: Curculionidae: Dryophthorinae), in Puerto Rico. Insecta Mundi. 1-3. http://centerforsystematicentomology.org/insectamundi/0152SetliffandAnderson.pdf
Smith G F, Figueiredo E, Klopper R R, Crouch N R, Janion C, Chown S L, 2012. A new specific plant host for the agave snout weevil, Scyphophorus acupunctatus Gyllenhal, 1838 (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in South Africa: a destructive pest of species of Agave L. (Agavaceae). Bradleya. 19-24.
Vaurie P, 1971. Review of Scyphophorus (Curculionidae: Rhynchophorinae). In: The Coleopterists Bulletin, 25 (1) 1-8.
Waring G L, Smith R L, 1986. Natural history and ecology of Scyphophorus acupunctatus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) and its associated microbes in cultivated and native agaves. Annals of the Entomological Society of America. 79 (2), 334-340. DOI:10.1093/aesa/79.2.334
Wibmer GJ, O'Brien CW, 1986. Annotated checklist of the weevils (Curculionidae sensu lato) of South America (Coleoptera: Curculionoidea). In: Memoirs of the American Entomological Institute, 39 1-563.
Wienik JF, 1967. A note on the transmission of Aspergillus niger by adult sisal weevils. In: PANS (B), 13 (4) 392-395.
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