Kansas State University


Extension Entomology

Tag: tunnel

European Elm Flea Weevil

–by Dr. Raymond Cloyd


We are seeing damage on elm (Ulmus spp.) trees caused by the larval stage of the European elm flea weevil (Orchestes alni). Larvae are cream-colored, legless (Figure 1),

Figure 1. European elm flea weevil larva

and found in the mines of leaves. Adults are 3.0 mm in length, red-brown in color with black spots or markings on the abdomen or wing covers (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Adult European elm flea weevil.


The mouthpart is shaped-like a snout (Figure 3)


Figure 3. European elm flea weevil adult (note the snout-like mouth)

since they are weevils and the hind legs are thickened and enlarged, which allows the adults to jump when disturbed. Adults are initially active in May, and after mating, females lay eggs in the large mid-veins of new leaves. Eggs hatch into larvae that tunnel through the leaf as they feed (which is occurring now), creating serpentine-like mines that enlarge as larvae mature (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Serpentine mines created by European elm flea weevil larvae.

Larvae eventually transition into a pupal stage, and then adults emerge in May and June. Adults primarily feed on leaf undersides creating small holes on young leaves (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Feeding damage caused by European elm flea weevil adult.


The feeding damage caused by both the larvae and adults will not kill an elm tree; however, extensive feeding may ruin the aesthetic appearance. Adults overwinter under loose bark and in leaf litter under previously infested trees. There is one generation per year in Kansas. Nearly all elm species are susceptible to feeding by the European elm flea weevil especially Siberian elms (Ulmus pumila) and certain elm hybrids with Asian parentage.

Management of European elm flea weevil involves maintaining proper tree health by means of watering, mulching, pruning, and fertilizing. Insecticides may be used to minimize damage; however, insecticides may be difficult to apply to large trees. Insecticides must be applied in May and June in order to suppress adult populations. A number of insecticides may be used including: acephate (Orthene), imidacloprid (Merit), or carbaryl (Sevin). However, if damage is not extensive, especially on large trees, then there be no rationale for using insecticides. For more information regarding European elm flea weevil management contact your county or state extension specialist.






Geraniums and Petunias Beware of the Tobacco Budworm

By Dr. Raymond Cloyd

Have you noticed that your geraniums and petunias are not blooming (flowering)? Well, the “critter” or culprit causing the problem may be the caterpillar or larval stage of the tobacco budworm (Heliothis virescens). Adults are pale-green to light-brown with the forewing marked with four light wavy bands (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Tobacco budworm adult
Figure 1: Tobacco budworm adult

The wingspan is approximately 38.0 mm. Adult females can lay between 500 and 1,000 eggs within 2 to 3 days. Caterpillars are 38.0 mm in length when full-grown and vary in color depending on the host plants fed upon. The caterpillars (larvae) may be black, pale brown, yellow, green, and/or red. They may also possess stripes that extend the length of the body (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Mature larva (caterpillar) of tobacco budworm
Figure 2: Mature larva (caterpillar) of tobacco budworm

Furthermore, caterpillars may have small hairs or setae on localized sections of the body. The caterpillars tunnel into buds (Figure 3)

Figure 3: Tobacco budworm larva (caterpillar) tunneling into petunia flower bud
Figure 3: Tobacco budworm larva (caterpillar) tunneling into petunia flower bud

and feed from inside or chew flower petals, which appear ragged (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Tobacco budworm larva (caterpillar) feeding on petals of petunia flower
Figure 4: Tobacco budworm larva (caterpillar) feeding on petals of petunia flower

Damage usually increases during the growing season. Furthermore, caterpillars feeding inside flower buds on developing ovaries will destroy flowers. Be on the look-out for black fecal deposits (“caterpillar poop”) (Figure 5)

Figure 5: Black fecal deposits ("caterpillar poop") associated with tobacco budworm larva (caterpillar) feeding
Figure 5: Black fecal deposits (“caterpillar poop”) associated with tobacco budworm larva (caterpillar) feeding

on the flower petals or on leaves below the flowers, which is a clear indication that the caterpillars are feeding. Tobacco budworm caterpillars will feed on a number of annual bedding plants besides geraniums and petunias, including: ageratum, chrysanthemum, nicotiana, snapdragon, and strawflower. Ivy geraniums may be less susceptible than other geranium types. The way to deal with tobacco budworm populations is to apply insecticides before the caterpillars tunnel into the buds using materials containing the following active ingredients: spinosad, cyfluthrin, permethrin, or bifenthrin. Be sure to thoroughly cover all plant parts as tobacco budworm caterpillars will also feed on plant leaves.


You can find more information on tobacco budworm feeding on petunia in the following article:

Davidson, N. A., M. G. Kinsey, L. E. Ehler, and G. W. Frankie. 1992. Tobacco budworm, pest of petunias, can be managed with Bt. California Agriculture 46 (July-August): 79.

Carpenter Bees

–Dr. Jeff Whitworth and Dr. Holly Schwarting

These large bumble bee look a-likes have been relatively active across the state in the last week.  The reproductive adults, especially the’ bald-faced’ males are quite noticeable around wooden structures.  These males are very territorial and their behavior of ‘dive-bombing’ any intruders, including humans and pets, is what draws attention to their presence.  These males are totally harmless as they do not have the ability to sting, and will die shortly after mating with females that emerge in the area.

carpenter vs bumble carpenter bee femalecarpenter bee male

Carpenter bees do not consume wood but do tunnel into untreated wooden structures to create nests for oviposition and larval development.  Please see the KSU, Carpenter Bees, for biology and management information: