Agriculture: Rice Pest Management Guidelines

Rice Water Weevil

  • Lissorhoptrus oryzophilus
  • Description of the Pest

    The rice water weevil adult (about 0.125 inch or 4 mm long) has a prominent beak and is gray with a dark marking on its back from the base of its head to the middle of its wing covers. It is distributed throughout the Sacramento Valley, the upper San Joaquin Valley, and central San Joaquin Valley (Merced County). It overwinters as an adult at the base of grass clumps, in weedy debris on levees and ditch banks, or in soil crevices.

    When daytime temperatures rise above 70°F (21°C) in late winter or early spring, rice water weevil adults begin feeding on grasses to build up their wing muscles. On calm, warm evenings (sunset to midnight), they fly in search of plant hosts growing in water. They are attracted to flooded rice fields and begin feeding on emerged rice or grasses in water along the levee banks. Longitudinal scars on the upper leaf surface indicate their presence in the field, if they are not directly observed.

    No males occur in California and females reproduce without mating. After arriving in a field and feeding for a few days, they lay their eggs singly under water in the leaf sheath tissue above the plant crown. One female may lay over 200 elongated eggs (0.03 inch or less than 1 mm long) over a period of several weeks. The adults that initially infest a field prefer to feed and lay their eggs in areas of the field adjacent to the levee margins.

    About 7 days after being laid, the eggs hatch. Small larvae mine the leaf sheath for about a day and then move to the soil to feed on the roots, where they stay through four larval instars. The legless larvae are milky white with light brown heads and have spinelike projections on their backs to pierce the roots and obtain oxygen. When their growth is completed, larvae pupate in mud-coated cocoons that they attach to the roots of rice, sedges, or various grasses.

    Adults emerge from the pupal cells from July until September. They feed on rice leaves, but by this time most plants are growing vigorously and are not adversely affected by this late adult feeding. A few of these adults will lay eggs in July or August but most enter a resting stage called diapause. They fly to overwintering sites and remain at the base of plants, particularly perennial grasses, or debris through the winter.

    The life cycle from egg to adult takes about 78 days in the laboratory at 73°F (23°C) with approximately 7 days in the egg stage, 50 days as larvae, and 21 days for pupation. The minimum time for development in the field is about 60 to 65 days.


    Rice water weevil is the most economically damaging of the invertebrate pests found in California. Root pruning by larvae is the major cause of reduced yields. Plants with damaged roots may become stunted and lose yield through reduction of tillers and panicles or because maturity is delayed. Reduced tillering and slower growth also allow weeds to become better established. The heaviest infestations and most serious damage can be expected to occur between late May and July within 15 to 20 feet of the margins of the fields and levees, where weevils are concentrated; moderate damage can occur in areas 20 to 35 feet from levees.

    Adult feeding appears as linear slits of varying length on the upper surface of the leaves but generally does not cause economic losses. High populations of adults feeding on young rice seedlings just as they emerge through shallow water may kill some seedlings, but such injury is uncommon.


    Management of rice water weevil may be enhanced by weed control in areas around the rice field, drill seeding, and winter flooding, depending upon current management strategies for other pests. In fields with chronic, damaging populations of rice water weevil, a preventive treatment may be advisable with application limited to the field edges.

    Cultural Control

    Rice water weevil adults have shown a preference in California for the areas adjacent to levees and field edges during the critical period of infestation at the beginning of the season. Large, laser-leveled fields generally have less land per acre associated with levees and field edges and, therefore, large fields will have less area per acre subject to infestation.

    Removing weedy vegetation on the levees in spring near the time of seeding can reduce rice water weevil infestations in fields and subsequent larval populations.

    Drill seeding involves seeding the dry rice field, irrigating the soil to germinate the seed, and keeping the soil moist for 6 to 8 weeks, at which time the field is then flooded. By the time the field is flooded, rice plants are more tolerant to rice water weevil injury. This method of control reduces or eliminates exposure of susceptible plants to weevil populations but may not compatible with current weed management strategies.

    Winter flooding of the field to enhance straw breakdown and provide waterfowl habitat can help with weevil control and reduce populations by about 50%.

    Aquatic weeds are strong competitors of rice for nutrients and space, particularly during the tillering stage. Because the rice water weevil larvae prune roots and reduce tillering, it is particularly important to have early and effective weed control to maximize recovery from water weevil injury.

    Organically Acceptable Methods

    Cultural control methods including weed control and increasing field size are acceptable for use on organically certified rice.

    Monitoring and Treatment Decisions

    Treatment decisions for rice water weevil are primarily based on past history of a particular field, proximity to weevil overwintering sites (ditch banks, riparian areas, weedy canal banks, etc.) and economics. A new sampling method has been developed to aid in decision-making for post-flood insecticide applications. A floating barrier trap can be used and placed in fields immediately after flooding. If one rice water weevil adult per trap per day is collected during the first 7 days after flooding, that is indicative that damaging larval populations will likely develop and that a post-flood insecticide application should be considered. After the first 7 days after flooding and especially after seedling establishment, the trap does not efficiently sample adults and should not be used.

    Lambda-cyhalothrin (Warrior), zeta-cypermethrin (Mustang), and diflubenzuron (Dimilin) are foliar treatments applied after flooding; these products control rice water weevil adults by disrupting their life cycle but have no toxicity against the weevil larvae, which is the primary damaging stage. Warrior and Mustang work by killing the adults, therefore reducing the number of eggs deposited and the resulting larval population. Rice plants are protected by the reduction of larval populations. Dimilin functions by sterilizing adult females, causing them to lay nonviable eggs, thus reducing the larval populations. It also is toxic to newly laid eggs, i.e., those that are less than 4 days old.

    Lambda-cyhalothrin (Warrior) is also registered for a preflood application. In areas that have a history of rice water weevil infestations, this application should be considered. Applications can be made within 5 days of flooding and light incorporation is recommended to improve efficacy.

    Because there is only one generation a year, timing is critical with these products. If they are applied too late, the eggs and larvae may already be present and the product will have little effect. Also, they are fairly short-lived products in water; if they are applied too early, they will dissipate before the adults are present in the field and have minimal effect.

    Research has shown that applications of these products to only the 30 to 50 feet adjacent to the levees can provide acceptable rice water weevil control in most conditions. This is the area with the most significant rice water weevil infestation, and the insecticide applied only to this area persists in an adequate concentration long enough to affect the adult weevils.

    Common name Amount per acre REI‡ PHI‡
    (Example trade name)   (hours) (days)
    Not all registered pesticides are listed. The following are ranked with the pesticides having the greatest IPM value listed first—the most effective and least harmful to natural enemies, honey bees, and the environment are at the top of the table. When choosing a pesticide, consider information relating to air and water quality, resistance management, and the pesticide's properties and application timing. Always read the label of the product being used.
      (Belay) 4.5 fl oz 12 NA
      COMMENTS: May be applied preflood or post-flood at 1–3 leaf stage with majority of plants in the second-leaf stage. Best control results of rice water weevil larvae have been seen with the post-flood application.
      (Warrior II with Zeon) 1.6–2.56 oz 24 21
      COMMENTS: A pyrethroid that kills adult weevils for about 7 days and kills larvae as they hatch from eggs; can also be applied preflood. Apply at 1–3 leaf stage with majority of plants in the second leaf stage. Can be used safely when propanil products are being used for weed control. Do not release floodwater within 7 days of an application. See label for other restrictions.
      (Mustang) 3.4–4.3 oz 12 14
      COMMENTS: A pyrethroid that kills adult weevils for about 7 days and kills larvae as they hatch from eggs. Make applications at least 7 days apart and do not release flood water within 7 days of application. Do not apply more than 1.1 pt (0.2 lb a.i.)/acre per season.
      (Dimilin 2L) 8–16 fl oz 12 80
      COMMENTS: An insect growth regulator; sterilizes adult females for about 7 days and kills 1-3 day old eggs already in the plant. Apply 2–5 days after rice emerges above water (i.e., 2–3 leaf stage). Can be used safely when propanil products are being used for weed control. Do not apply if flooding is in progress; activity will be reduced. This material is water active so the entire field must be treated. Do not disturb flooded area after application for at least 7 days. Treated water should be held for at least 14 days. Do not use on wild rice or near crayfish aquaculture. See label for other restrictions.
    Restricted entry interval (REI) is the number of hours (unless otherwise noted) from treatment until the treated area can be safely entered without protective clothing. Preharvest interval (PHI) is the number of days from treatment to harvest. In some cases the REI exceeds the PHI. The longer of two intervals is the minimum time that must elapse before harvest.
    1 Rotate chemicals with a different mode-of-action Group number, and do not use products with the same mode-of-action Group number more than twice per season to help prevent the development of resistance. For example, the organophosphates have a Group number of 1B; chemicals with a 1B Group number should be alternated with chemicals that have a Group number other than 1B. Mode-of-action Group numbers are assigned by IRAC (Insecticide Resistance Action Committee).
    NA Not applicable
    * Permit required from county agricultural commissioner for purchase or use.
    Text Updated: 02/09
    Treatment Table Updated: 10/15