New Zionsville resident Janet Stutzman was surprised to find the tops of her freshly blooming coneflowers dangling from the stems. She asked local gardening groups for advice and did some searching before she discovered the cause: the sunflower head-clipping weevil.
These little bugs – approximately ¼ inch long – with pointed snout are responsible for decapitating daisies and asters in Midwest gardens. The females lay eggs in the fallen head. When the larvae emerge they eat the flowers, then burrow into the ground for the winter. The following July they emerge, ready for the process to start all over again.
This underscores the importance of cleaning gardens and bagging debris on the ground which might house these pests.
There are a few ways to control these weevils. The best option is to cover the dangling bud with a plastic bag, then clip it so that the little decapitator is trapped inside. Then dispose of the bag. Quickly removing clipped flowers and cutting back these damaged plants will help as well. Another option is to place the clipped flower in soapy water to kill the larvae. Insecticide is not recommended because it impacts such a small number of plants and could have a negative impact on pollinators.