2 States up Boll Weevil Traps After 2 Found in Mississippi


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Louisiana and Arkansas have stepped up boll weevil trapping because
two of the destructive, long-snounted beetles were found in
northern Mississippi.

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Louisiana
and Arkansas
have stepped up boll weevil trapping because two of the
destructive, long-snouted beetles were found in northern Mississippi.

“We run scared about getting them reintroduced into the
state,” said Gus Lorenz, a University of Arkansas Cooperative
Extension Service entomologist and one of the state’s three boll
weevil experts. “We’re going to do everything we can to avoid
that as much as possible.”

Boll weevil larvae eat cotton buds and flowers. They have cost
the cotton industry more than $23 billion since moving into the
United States from Mexico in the 1890s, according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. Since North
Carolina
and southern Virginia
began trial programs about 40 years ago, the beetles have been
eradicated from all cotton-producing states except part of southern
Texas
.

The bugs have snouts about half as long as their bodies and
average about a quarter-inch long (6 millimeters) from snout-tip to
back end.

Farrell Boyd, program director for Mississippi’s boll weevil
eradication program, said the two male Mexican boll weevils found
in Batesville probably hitched a ride on a vehicle, though nobody
knows for sure how they arrived. Intensive trapping around the
field where they were found in a trap on Sept. 29 and within a mile
of that spot hasn’t turned up any more weevils, he said.

“Every day that goes by without us catching any more, I feel
real comfortable,” he said.

Boll weevils were declared eradicated in Arkansas in 2006,
Mississippi in 2009 and Louisiana in 2012.

“We spent hundreds of millions of dollars eradicating the
weevil, and we’re just not willing to take a chance,” Lorenz
said.

Traps are usually spaced about every mile along highways, and
that distance has been halved, he said. They’ve also boosted
trapping near the three bridges between Mississippi and Arkansas,
and in Texarkana, the entry point from Texas.

In Louisiana, precautionary trap lines are kept up along
Interstates 20 and 49. The distance has been reduced between traps
along I-20 in northeast Louisiana because of the Mississippi find,
state Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain said in a
news release.

Boyd said that after the weevils were found in Mississippi,
“The first thing we thought was, well, somebody hauled a
fertilized female here and she went off into the field and laid
some eggs, so she’ll lay some more.”

But since traps all around the field and along the highway
didn’t turn up any more boll weevils, the only other
possibilities were that the insects arrived on farm equipment or on
some sort of vehicle.

“It would have to come from south Texas or Mexico, simply
because everything is eradicated north of the Rio Grande Valley,”
Boyd said.

The only cotton harvesting equipment brought from that area to
Mississippi stopped at least 15 miles west of Batesville, where the
weevils were caught, he said. In addition, it had followed standard
procedure — it was pressure-washed in Texas and checked for boll
weevils by the state agriculture department.

“So I don’t really think it had anything to do with
equipment coming from down there. I think more likely it came on a
vehicle in some form or fashion,” Boyd said.

There are three types of boll weevils. The Southeastern variety
once infested U.S. cotton fields. Thurberia boll weevils are native
to the mountains of southern Arizona and
parts of northwestern Mexico and primarily infest a kind of wild
cotton called thurberia. Mexican weevils are found in that country
and can be just as destructive to commercial cotton as the
Southeastern variety.

This is the first time the Mexican variety has been found in the
Southeast or mid-South, Boyd said.

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2 States up Boll Weevil Traps After 2 Found in Mississippi