PestFacts WA

Weevils are damaging moisture stressed canola 

  • Popanyinning
  • Dumbleyung
  • Moulyanning
  • Woogenellup
  • Esperance
Desiantha weevils and canola seedlings with visible desiantha weevil feeding damage
Desiantha weevils and canola seedlings with visible desiantha weevil feeding damage. Photo courtesy of: Myles Prasser-Jones (ConsultAg).

The PestFacts WA team has received numerous reports, and identification requests, of desiantha weevil feeding on moisture stressed seedling canola at Popanyinning, north of Dumbleyung, north of Moulyanning and Esperance. Additionally, vegetable weevil was found to be causing damage to moisture stressed canola crops at Woogenellup and east of Esperance.

North of Dumbleyung, it wasn't just weevils causing damage, bryobia mites and balaustium mites were also present. Feeding damage from mites was causing cupping in moisture-stressed canola seedlings.  For more information on these mites, refer to DPIRD’s Diagnosing bryobia mite and Diagnosing balaustium mite pages.

Weevil species

Four species of weevils typically damage canola: vegetable weevil, desiantha (spotted vegetable) weevil, small lucerne weevil and Fuller’s rose weevil.

A vegetable weevil
A vegetable weevil. Photo courtesy of: Andrew Weeks (Cesar Australia).

Adult vegetable weevils are about 10 mm long with two short white stripes at an angle on each side of its abdomen. They will attack canola and some broadleaf pasture plants, especially capeweed. They are often camouflaged amongst stubble and trash and tend to hide during the day.

A vegetable weevil larva feeding on canola
A vegetable weevil larva feeding on canola. Photo courtesy of: DPIRD.

Vegetable weevils can lay eggs on canola. The eggs hatch into the larval stage in early winter. Larvae feed on the plants on which they hatched. Larvae have a black head, are legless, cream coloured and can be confused with caterpillars.

An adult desiantha weevil.
An adult desiantha weevil. Photo courtesy of: Rachel Golledge (DPIRD).

Desiantha weevil adults are mottled grey-black in colour with grey flecks on the abdomen, and have the typical elongated weevil snout. They grow up to 7 mm long and are flightless. Adults chew cotyledons, leaves and stems of canola plants, and may eat small plants down to ground level, while the larvae feed below ground on cereals.

Desiantha weevil larva.
Desiantha weevil larva. Photo courtesy of: DPIRD.

The larvae of desiantha weevils are white legless creatures that grow to 6 mm long with orange-brown heads. They remain under the soil where they feed on the germinating cereal seed or stem, they can be difficult to find if in low numbers. 

An adult small lucerne weevil
Adult small lucerne weevil. Photo courtesy of DPIRD.

Small lucerne weevil adults are about 5 mm long, light grey in colour with a white stripe on each side. Adults will attack geminating lucerne, pasture legumes and canola. Small lucerne weevil will hide under stubble and may not come into contact with insecticides. After spraying, check for new damage in crops or for live beetles before seeding.

An adult Fuller’s rose weevil.
An adult Fuller’s rose weevil. Photo courtesy of: DPIRD.

Adult Fuller’s rose weevils are about 8 mm long, have an elongated body, and are grey with a yellow stripe running across the side on the first two body segments and a lateral yellow stripe on each side of the abdomen.

Larvae of Fuller’s rose and small lucerne weevil are difficult to distinguish between as they both have a white head, with black jaws, are legless and cream coloured. They are found underground, feeding on roots of plants. Small lucerne weevil larvae have been known to cause damage to lucerne.

Adult vegetable weevils often harbour in rock heaps and remnant bush areas and move into the adjoining canola crop from these refuges. The other three weevils have been known to cause damage across the paddock.

Weevils can be very hard to find as they hide and play dead with their legs tucked, which helps them blend in with their surroundings. Pitfall traps placed into the ground can be an effective way to find weevils.

If you are unsure of the type of weevil you have found in your canola crop, email the PestFacts WA team to request an identification by our entomologists. The PestFacts WA Reporter app is temporarily unavailable.

Diagnosing weevil damage

All adult weevils chew off parts of leaves and cotyledons, giving them a serrated appearance, and can eat plants down to ground level at high numbers.

Desiantha weevil larvae feed on the underground parts of cereal seedlings and can cause a reduction in plant growth, wilting and eventual death of plants.

Damage from vegetable weevil is usually restricted to paddock edges or where capeweed was in abundance the previous year.

Managing canola weevils

Weevils can be a frustrating pest as they can survive spray applications of insecticides at registered rates due to their behaviour of hiding during the day. For this reason, it can be more effective to spray in the evening when weevils are active.

Desiantha weevil numbers can be reduced by effective control of grass weeds in the previous season and of the green bridge following summer rainfall.

The only treatment for Desiantha weevil larvae in cereals is to sow with seed treated with chlorpyrifos.

For insecticide recommendations on managing vegetable weevils in canola, refer to DPIRD’s 2024 autumn winter insecticide spray guide. The vegetable weevil requires higher rates of insecticides than most pests of canola.

Do you have difficulty controlling desiantha weevil?

DPIRD currently has a project, funded by Council of Grain Grower Organisations (COGGO), looking into whether desiantha weevils are developing tolerances to synthetic pyrethroids. If you find desiantha weevils, especially if they appear to have survived insecticide application, please contact DPIRD Research Scientist Svetlana Micic at or +61 (0)8 9892 8591.

Further information 

For more information on weevils visit DPIRD's Diagnosing weevils in canola and Diagnosing Desiantha weevil in cereals pages.

For more information contact Research Scientist Svetlana Micic in Albany on +61 (0)8 9892 8591.

Article authors: Cindy Webster (DPIRD Narrogin) and Svetlana Micic (DPIRD Albany).