AskDefine | Define weevil

The Collaborative Dictionary

Weevil \Wee"vil\, n. [OE. wivel, wevil, AS. wifel, wibil; akin to OD. wevel, OHG. wibil, wibel, G. wiebel, wibel, and probably to Lith. vabalas beetle, and E. weave. See Weave.] (Zool.) Any one of numerous species of snout beetles, or Rhynchophora, in which the head is elongated and usually curved downward. Many of the species are very injurious to cultivated plants. The larvae of some of the species live in nuts, fruit, and grain by eating out the interior, as the plum weevil, or curculio, the nut weevils, and the grain weevil (see under Plum, Nut, and Grain). The larvae of other species bore under the bark and into the pith of trees and various other plants, as the pine weevils (see under Pine). See also Pea weevil, Rice weevil, Seed weevil, under Pea, Rice, and Seed. [1913 Webster]

Word Net

weevil n : any of several families of mostly small beetles that feed on plants and plant products; especially snout weevils and seed weevils




  1. Any of several small herbivorous beetles in the superfamily Curculionoidea. Many of them have a distinctive snout.


herbivorous beetle
  • Finnish: kärsäkäs
  • German: Rüsselkäfer
  • Maori: pepeke nguturoa
  • Russian: долгоносик
  • Spanish: gorgojo
A weevil is any beetle from the Curculionoidea superfamily. They are usually small, less than 6 mm (¼ inch), and herbivorous. Due to the shape of their heads, weevils are commonly known as snout beetles. There are over 60,000 species in several families, mostly in the family Curculionidae (the true weevils). Some other beetles, although not closely related, bear the name "weevil", such as the biscuit weevil (Stegobium paniceum), which belongs to the family Anobiidae.
Many weevils are damaging to crops. The grain or wheat weevil (Sitophilus granarius) damages stored grain. The boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis) attacks cotton crops. It lays its eggs inside unripe cotton bolls, and the young weevils eat their way out.
Weevils are often found in dry foods including nuts and seeds, cereal and grain products. In the domestic setting, they are most likely to be observed when opening a bag of flour although they will happily infest most types of grain including oats, barley and breakfast cereals. Their presence is often indicated by the granules of the infested item sticking together in strings, as if caught in a cobweb. If ingested, E. coli infection and other various diseases can be contracted from weevils, depending on their diet.


Because there are so many species and such diversity, the higher classification of weevils is in a state of flux. Weevils are generally divided into two major divisions, the Orthoceri or primitive weevils, and the Gonatoceri or true weevils (Curculionidae). Zimmerman proposed a third division, the Heteromorphi, for several intermediate forms . Primitive weevils are distinguished by having straight antennae, while true weevils have elbowed (geniculate) antennae. The elbow occurs at the end of the scape (first antennal segment) in true weevils, and the scape is usually much longer than the other antennal segments. Some exceptions occur. Nanophyini are primitive weevils (with very long trochanters) but have long scapes and geniculate antennae. From the true weevils, Gonipterinae and Ramphus have short scapes and little or no hardtack.
The most recent classification system to family level was provided by Kuschel , with updates from Marvaldi et al. , and was achieved using phylogenetic analyses. The accepted families are the primitive weevils, Anthribidae, Attelabidae, Belidae, Brentidae, Caridae and Nemonychidae, and the true weevils Curculionidae. Most other weevil families were demoted to subfamilies or tribes. Weevil species radiation was shown to follow steps in plant evolution upon which the weevils feed.
Some of the features used to distinguish weevil families are:


A phylogeny of the Curculionoidea based on 18S ribosomal DNA and morphological data is suggested below:


  • In the episode Evil Weevil of Courage the Cowardly Dog a weevil works as the butler for the Bagges, but actually wanted to suck Muriel and Eustace's blood.
  • In the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World captain Jack Aubrey (played by Russell Crowe) makes a joke about "choosing the lesser of two weevils".
  • In the book Crossroads of Twilight, book ten in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, concerns about weevils destroying stores of grain are frequent.
  • In the Hornblower Series by C. S. Forester, weevils are a common pest eating up the ship's biscuit supplies.
  • Zyzzyva, a genus of tropical American weevils, is the last word in many English language dictionaries including The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.
  • In the episode The Night of the Headless Woman of The Wild Wild West the episode's bad guy, Abdul Hassan plans to infest all western countries with giant boll weevils so that he can get rich supplying the West with cotton.
  • In Season Four Episode Eleven of The Office, Dwight refers to 'Weevil season' after Ryan asks Dwight a question about his Beet Farm.
  • In the TV show "Back at the Barnyard" the farmer says that Weevils are the only bug he's ever feared.
  • If every species of animal and plant were placed next to each other in a line, every 10th animal would be a weevil.



image:Palmettoweevil.jpg|Palmetto weevil
weevil in Czech: Curculionoidea
weevil in Spanish: Curculionoidea
weevil in French: Curculionoidea
weevil in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Curculion
weevil in Italian: Curculionoidea
weevil in Lithuanian: Straubliukiniai
weevil in Japanese: ゾウムシ
weevil in Norwegian: Curculionoidea
weevil in Portuguese: Caruncho
weevil in Thai: ด้วงงวง
weevil in Ukrainian: Molytinae
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