University of FloridaSolutions for Your Life

Download PDF
Publication #EENY-053

Silky Cane Weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier) (Insecta: Coleoptera: Curculionidae)1

Thomas J. Weissling and Robin M. Giblin-Davis2

Introduction

The silky cane weevil (Metamasius hemipterus sericeus) is distributed through the West Indies, Central, and South America (Vaurie 1966), and was first reported in Dade County, Florida in 1984 (Woodruff and Baranowski 1985). In Florida, M. h. sericeus is an economically important pest of sugarcane, palms and other tropical plants. Larvae of M. h. sericeus are borers that tunnel through plant stems and petioles causing extensive damage.

It was first discovered infesting sugarcane in the Belle Glade, Florida, area by Giblin-Davis et al. (1994) and a heavy infestation was observed by Sosa (1995) about 7 km south of South Bay, FL. A survey conducted by the Florida Sugarcane League and the USDA-ARS indicated that M. h. sericeus was widely distributed throughout the sugarcane production areas of Florida planted to cultivar 'CP-85-1382'. Metamasius h. sericeus is generally considered a secondary pest of sugarcane and is attracted to stems damaged by mechanical cultivation, harvesting equipment, rats, other borers, disease, or natural growth cracks.

In addition to sugarcane, M. h. sericeus is also an important pest of nursery palms and banana plantings in South Florida as well as the West Indies and Central and South America. Larval tunneling through the stem, petioles and leaves of palms usually results in production of a gummy, amber-colored exudate (Giblin-Davis et al. 1996a). Infestations can often go undetected in trees such as Canary Island date palm causing an increase in weevil population. Host palm damage can be severe in some instances but infestations are rarely lethal. Ornamental crop production represents a 190 million dollar industry in South Florida. Losses in palm nursery production due to weevils, including damage by M. h. sericeus, Rhynchophorus cruentatus and Diaprepes abbreviatus, are high and contribute to a sizable portion of total pest control costs.

Description

Adults of M. h. sericeus vary in color from red to orange and black. In addition, the pattern of coloration on the elytra, pronotum and venter is also variable. The femora are typically red, or red with black patterning. Total length of adults from the tip of the rostrum to the end of the pygidium varies from 9 to 14 mm. Larvae are legless grubs, and are creamy to yellowish in color. Their prominent head is reddish-brown and very hard and they have a ventral posterior protuberance.

Figure 1. 

Color pattern of the adult silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 2. 

SEM of head of adult male silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 3. 

SEM comparison, ventral view of male and female pygidium, of the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 4. 

Larva of the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Life Cycle

Metamasius hemipterus sericeus has a complete life cycle: with an egg, several larval instars, pupal, and adult stages. Adults can live for 60 days and females deposit an average of 500 eggs (Castrillon and Herrera 1980). Females are attracted to and oviposit in damaged or stressed sugarcane stalks, banana pseudostems, ripe fruit (pineapple, mango, papaya), or palm sheaths or stems (Giblin-Davis et al. 1994). Eggs hatch in about four days and begin to feed. In sugarcane, larvae feed in the pith, sometimes boring into healthy tissue. Larval tunneling in palm starts in the petioles, wounds in petioles, crown, or stem and then extends into healthy leaf or stem tissue. After about seven weeks, larvae construct a fibrous pupal case similar to that constructed by R. cruentatus (Woodruff and Baranowski 1985). After about 10 days, pupae transform to adults which may immediately break free of the cocoon, or may remain within the cocoon until conditions are favorable for emergence (Woodruff and Baranowski 1985).

The adult stage of M. h. sericeus is free living, and often found on or within banana pseudostems, palm fronds, sugarcane sheaths, and leaf litter.

Host Range

Metamasius hemipterus sericeus primarily infests banana and plantain, Musa spp., and interspecific hybrids of sugarcane. Infestations have also been observed in several ornamental palms such as Canary Island date palm, Phoenix canariensis; MacArthur palm, Ptychosperma macarthurii; majesty palm, Ravenia rivularis; royal palm, Roystonia regia; spindle palm, Hyophorbe verschaffeltii; and Washington fan palm, Washingtonia robusta (Giblin-Davis et al. 1994, Peña et al. 1995, Vaurie 1966).

Damage

Metamasius hemipterus sericeus is generally considered to be a secondary pest of damaged sugarcane. However, larvae feeding on dead tissue often bore into and feed on healthy material resulting in significant damage or even cane death. Currently, M. h. sericeus in Florida infests 8 to 32% of the 'CP-85-1382' stalks under cultivation. Estimated losses in sugarcane production due to M. h. sericeus in Florida have run as high as $402.40/ha, or almost $ 6 million industry-wide (Sosa et al. 1997). Larval tunneling in palm starts in the petioles, wounds in petioles, crown, or stem and then extends into healthy leaf or stem tissue. Affected palms are often characterized by the production of an amber-colored and gummy exudate in the stem, crown shaft or petioles, and galleries in the leaves, petioles and stems (Giblin-Davis et al. 1994). Typically, M. h. sericeus infestations in palms are not lethal. However, aesthetic problems are observed such as exudate running down the palm stem or crown shaft. In addition, palm stress created by M. h. sericeus infestation can increase the chances of infestation by the palmetto weevil, Rhynchophorus cruentatus. Palmetto weevil infestations can be lethal to palms such as P. canariensis. Because M. h. sericeus is a borer, it can be easily moved within plants and is considered to be a regulatory problem.

Figure 5. 

Damage to sugarcane by the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 6. 

Damage to spindle palm by the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 7. 

Closeup of damage to spindle palm by the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 8. 

Damage to Canary Island date palm by the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 9. 

Damage to majesty palm by the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit:

Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Figure 10. 

Damage to royal palm by the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit:

Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Dynamics and Trapping

Population assessment of M. h. sericeus is problematic. Trapping of adults is the method most often used to monitor weevil populations. Vilardebo (1973) and later Castrillon and Herrera (1980) suggested the use of a "sandwich trap" using banana pseudostem as an attractant. Using the same trapping method, Peña et al. (1995) determined that populations build up during the spring, summer and early fall in Florida, but warned that the number of weevils collected at these traps was consistently low. Perez et al. (1997) have identified major male-produced aggregation pheromones and host kairomone compounds while Giblin-Davis et al. (1996b) have optimized trap designs and protocols that can be used for enhanced monitoring of weevil populations in the field. In addition, Oehlschlager et al. (unpub. data) have demonstrated that pheromone and host-baited traps can be used to mass trap M. h. sericeus infesting sugarcane in Costa Rica.

Management

Chemical Control

Chemically-based management tactics are currently recommended for control of M. h. sericeus. Giblin-Davis et al. (1996a) demonstrated that adults of M. h. sericeus were killed by labeled rates of acephate, carbofuran, chlorpyrifos, cyfluthrin, disulfoton, imidachloprid, isofenphos, lindane and vydate.

Florida Landscape Plant Insect Management Suggestions

Entomopathogens

The use of entomopathogens provides a promising means of managing M. h. sericeus. The entomogenous fungi, Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin and Metarhizium anisopliae (Metchnikoff) Sorokin, have gained considerable attention as potential control agents for weevils (Mesquita et al. 1981, Peña et al. 1995, Giblin-Davis et al. 1996a). Giblin-Davis et al. (1996a) demonstrated that the nematode Steinernema carpocapsae was efficacious against larvae but not the adults of M. h. sericeus. Researchers have concluded that because of the potential for high weevil production per Canary Island date palm in Florida and the cryptic habitat of the boring stages of this weevil, chemical insecticides and entomopathogenic nematodes would need to be applied frequently and over a long period of time for effective management of established populations.

Figure 11. 

Nematode infested larva of the silky cane weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier).


Credit: Robin M. Giblin-Davis, University of Florida
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Biological Control

Biological control is expected to provide additional, possibly more effective, management of M. h. sericeus in Florida and the Caribbean. However, very little is known about effective biocontrol agents of M. h. sericeus in the Americas and the Caribbean. Siqueira et al. (1996) identified predators of Metamasius at the family level and stated that they were more abundant in Brazil than were parasitoids. These predatory insect families included Labiduridae, Histeridae, Staphylinidae, Carabidae, Cicindelidae, Formicidae and Reduviidae. A parasitoid was observed and identified as a tachinid.

Selected References

Castrillon C, Herrera JG. 1980. Los picudos negro y rayado del platano y banano. Ica-Informa, Separata, 4 pp.

Giblin-Davis RM, Peña JE, Duncan RE. 1994. Lethal pitfall trap for evaluation of semiochemical mediated attraction of Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). Florida Entomologist 77: 247-255.

Giblin-Davis RM, Peña JE, Duncan R. 1996a. Evaluation of entomogenous nematodes and chemical insecticides for control of Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier) (Coleoptera:Curculionidae). Journal of Entomological Science 31: 240-251.

Giblin-Davis RM, Peña JE, Oehlschlager AC, Perez AL. 1996b. Optimization of Semiochemical-based trapping of Metamasius hemipterus sericeus (Olivier) (Coleoptera:Curculionidae). Journal of Chemical Ecology 22: 1389-1410.

Mesquita ALM, Lucchini F, Alves EJ, Caldas RC. 1981. Influencia dos fatores ambiental no grau de parasitismo de Beauveria bassiana sobre Cosmopolites sordidus e Metamasius hemipterus, em cultivo da bananeira. Pesquisa em andamento - EMBRAPA, Centro Nacional de Pesquisa de Mandioca e Fruticultura., no. 14, Aug 1981.

Peña JE, Giblin-Davis RM, Duncan R. 1995. Impact of indigenous Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin on banana weevil and rotten sugarcane weevil (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) populations in banana in Florida. Journal of Agricultural Entomology 12: 163-167.

Perez AL, Campos Y, Chinchilla CM, Oehlschlager AC, Gries G, Gries R, Giblin-Davis RM, Castrillo G, Peña JE, Duncan RE, Gonzalez LM, Pierce HD Jr, McDonald R, Andrade R. 1997. Aggregation pheromones and host kairomones of West Indian Sugarcane Weevil, Metamasius hemipterus sericeus. Journal of Chemical Ecology 23: 869-888.

Siqueira HA, Barreto R, Cavalcante T, Picanco M. 1996. Controle biologico de Cosmopolitus sordidus e Metamasius sp. (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) em bananeoira por predadores e parasitoides. V Siconbiol, Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil, 9-14 June, p. 161.

Sosa O. 1995. The West Indian cane weevil and the sugarcane rootstalk borer weevil-likely pests of sugarcane in Florida. Sugar Journal 58: 27-29.

Sosa O, Shine J, Tai P. 1997. West Indian cane weevil (Coleoptera: Curculionidae): a new pest of sugarcane in Florida. Journal of Economic Entomology 90: 634-638.

Woodruff RE, Baranowski RM. 1985. Metamasius hemipterus (Linnaeus) recently established in Florida (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry, Entomology Circular 272. 4 pp.

Vaurie P. 1966. A revision of the Neotropical genus Metamasius (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Rhynchophorinae). Species groups I and II. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 131: 213-337.

Vilardebo A. 1973. Le coefficient d’infestation, critère d'evaluation du degré d'attaques des bananerais par Cosmopolites sordidus Ger., le charançon noir du bananier. Fruits 28: 417-426.

Footnotes

1.

This document is EENY-053 (IN210), one of a series of Featured Creatures from the Entomology and Nematology Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date: September 1998. Revised: August 2010 and September 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Thomas J. Weissling and Robin M. Giblin-Davis, Entomology and Nematology Department, UF/IFAS Extension.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.