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    Way on Texas Rice: Water Weevils are Feeding after Surviving the Winter

    Rice water weevil

    Here in the Texas Rice Belt we have had a hot, dry May, except for the past week, which has been relatively wet. So far, this has been another unusual, atypical (but what is typical?) rice growing season with a cold, wet early spring followed by a dry, hot late spring. Who knows what is in store for us the remainder of the season?  

    In general, the crop looks good despite early stand problems caused by the cool/wet weather, windy conditions and some damage to seedling rice by chinch bugs. The windy conditions played havoc with aerial applications and on coarse soils caused “sandblasting” of seedling rice. At this time, most of our crop is flooded or close to being flooded.

    I have observed very high populations of adult rice water weevils and associated feeding scars on rice leaves. I don’t know why these infestations are so high this spring, given a relatively cold winter (we had 3 snows in SE Texas in December and January) which should decrease populations of overwintering adult weevils. But, adult rice water weevils have the ability to enter diapause when winter conditions are unfavorable. Basically, weevils change their physiology to permit them to survive cold winters. They produce an antifreeze-like substance in their blood and utilize stored fat to combat the cold weather. They also hunker down in clumps of perennial grasses, like paspalum. Temperatures in these micro-habitats often can be considerably higher than ambient air temperatures. So, this little critter is well-adapted to variable climates which is one reason it has become a global pest of rice!

    I want to briefly mention an outreach activity in which my project is involved; in fact, many of our projects at the Beaumont Center conduct outreach activities to educate and inform our community of the work we do for the Texas (and US) rice industries. The Beaumont Center is not alone in these endeavors. I know other rice research stations in other states also devote time to this important service.

    Every year I play host (no pun intended) to Dr. Randy Yoder’s Lamar University Parasitology class. Randy is an expert in snail parasites and teaches undergraduate biology majors about these hosts and their parasites. So, Randy brings his class on a field trip to our Center for a half-day every spring semester. I get to describe the research we do at the Center and the students get to tour the Center and collect snails from our laterals, ditches and paddies. The students take the snails back to Lamar University where they dissect and study the hosts and parasites. Everyone benefits; in fact, some of Randy’s students who show interest in my program have become summer research assistants/interns in my project—not a parasitic but mutualistic relationship!




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