Source: UF/IFAS 2023
How often do you see something that makes you go “Hmmmm…?”
How often do you actually look it up to learn more?
I am curious, especially when it comes to critters. Recently, I noticed an abundance of perfectly rolled oak leaf pieces spread about the sidewalk. First thought, POOP! Next thought, why is fertilizer on the sidewalk? Of course I picked it up! It was neither poop nor fertilizer.
It looked like a tiny cigar factory or little grape leaves tightly rolled and ready to be sold. Less than ¼ inch, what on earth could be the impressive oak leaf roller?
A quick google search of “oak leaf roller UF” and BAM! Results. That is a great way to do a quick search for science based information in Florida.
As my fellow curious cats know, you cannot just stop at picking it up… now we have to see what is inside the tiny gift packet. Unfurling what seemed like a message tightly wrapped in a bottle, the unfurled oak leaf was protecting a tiny egg.
The details of the host oak tree, rolled leaves, and visible egg were enough to confirm the critter is a Leaf-rolling Weevil, Homoeolabus analis.
While the weevil does cause minor damage to oak leaves, it is not considered a pest issue. In fact, the way the weevil works is quite impressive.
It is active during spring when there is an abundance of new, soft growth. The weevil has a favorite 16 species of oak and chestnut. It starts by biting the midrib of the leaf. The weevil allows the leaf to go limp before continuing to munch a pattern perfect for rolling up tightly around an egg. Sometimes the grape leaf-like packet stays attached to the leaf, while other times it drops to the ground.
While most folks are likely happiest when they do not notice bugs, what goes unnoticed are intricate connections in the food web and significance to nature. There is another “thief weevil” that comes to feast on the leaf roller egg like it is a decadent layered cake. It is a something eats something else world out there!
Curiosity is a good thing! In this case, no problem, no chemicals needed. In another recent case, a client’s curiosity resulted in a termite identification. Proper pest ID is incredibly important for control and management strategies. Sometimes, it is just downright impressive to learn about our critter companions.
On that note, some of human’s greatest inventions are inspired by curiosity of nature. Did you know velcro was inspired by burrs getting stuck to pets and pants? I would not be surprised if early humans were inspired by these little leaf rollers.
Here is more information about nature’s cigar roller, the leaf-rolling weevil: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN753