Acorn and Nut Weevils

Need to know 

  • Adult acorn weevils are brown beetles with a very long, thin snout. 
  • Eggs are laid in acorns in midsummer, and larvae feed inside the nut until fall. 
  • Larval damage can 'kill' the acorn and it will not grow a new tree. 
  • Management is not practical and many acorns survive. 

Description of acorn weevils

The adult acorn weevil (Curculio sp.) is a brown beetle about 3/8 inches in length and with a very long, thin snout.  Nut weevil larvae are legless grubs with a curved body that is fattest in the middle and tapering toward both ends.  Larvae are creamy white colored with a brown head and can grow to be 1/4 to 3/8 inches long.

Life cycle of acorn weevils

Adult females lay their eggs inside developing nuts on the trees during mid-summer.  The egg hatches into a creamy white, grub-like larva that feeds inside the nut until fall.  When the acorns fall to the ground in autumn, the larva chews a perfectly round 1/8 inch hole in the nut and emerges in late fall or early winter.  The larvae then tunnel into the soil, where they will stay for one to two years before emerging as a new adult weevil to repeat the process.

Acorn weevil larva and acorn with hole.
Acorn weevil larva next to the acorn it emerged from.  

Damage caused by acorn weevils

The larvae can eat out the entire nut inside an acorn or hickory nut, making it worthless, but they do not damage the tree in any way. The reason you often find so many "wormy" or "holey" nuts under the trees is because the squirrels leave them behind.  It appears squirrels can select good nuts during their fall frenzy of gathering.  If you want to collect the good nuts for yourself, you will have to get up early and beat the squirrels to it.

Management of acorn weevils

Control of nut weevils in backyard oak and hickory trees is not practical.  Nut growers use insecticides similar to apple growers to prevent egg-laying by the female weevils.  This is prohibitively costly for the private homeowner.

Additional information on acorn weevils

Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?

The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, life cycle, and if it is a pest the best ways to manage them.  Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.   

Contact information for each state's diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents.  If you live outside of Iowa please do not submit a sample without contacting the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  

Last reviewed:
November 2021

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on September 12, 2016. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.