Agave experts, growers, and pest management specialists advise drenching the soil around healthy agaves with a systemic insecticide containing imidacloprid.* Untreated agaves are at high risk of infestation. If treated early enough, an infested agave may survive. 

The agave snout-nosed weevil is a half-inch-long black beetle with a downward-curving proboscis that enables it to pierce an agave’s core, where it lays its eggs. Grubs hatch, consume the agave’s heart, then burrow into the soil to pupate. The weevil (Scyphophorus acupunctatus)---once prevalent only in desert regions and Mexico---is spreading rapidly throughout the US and abroad, earning it the dubious distinction of being one of the "Top 100 Worst Global Invasive Species."

The agave in the middle shows signs of snout weevil infestation. This a block from my home (eek!)

How to treat your agaves

The goal is to drench the agave's roots. Twice a year, in spring and fall.

1. The night before, soak (hose-water) the soil at the base of each agave to aid penetration.
2. Read and follow the label directions. Be sure to wear gloves and protect your skin and eyes.
3. To mix the solution, I use a hose, a 3-to-5 gallon bucket, and a stick for stirring. Product labels don't say how much concentrate per gallon of water for agaves, so I go with the ratio for shrubs. (If using Compare-N-Save Systemic Tree and Shrub Insect Drench, it's 3 oz. per foot of height per gallon of water.)
4. Agaves naturally funnel rainwater water to their roots, so if you slosh the solution where lowest leaves meet the core, you'll effectively drench the soil below them at the base of the plant.

Note: Avoid doing this in temperatures above 80 degrees F. High temps diminish the insecticide's effectiveness and may even harm plants already stressed by heat. 

Is your agave infested?

Look for damaged tissue where leaves meet stem. The lowest leaves will appear wilted, and may slope unnaturally downward while the center cone remains upright. The plant, no longer anchored by roots, will rock when pushed. When an infestation is well underway, it's possible to shove the agave over onto its side. It'll break at soil level, revealing a mushy, foul-smelling core infested by plump, squirming, half-inch, cream-colored grubs with brown heads.

Agave snout weevil

Above: an agave's grub-eaten core resembles a sponge.


Above: Close-up of a snout-nose grub.

In my YouTube video, "Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment," I demonstrate how to inspect nursery agaves, show resistant varieties, and interview agave expert Kelly Griffin at an infested colony of Agave americana. Kelly also talks about applying a systemic insecticide as a prophylactic (preventive) option.

Good news ~

-- Agaves treated early in an infestation may recover, providing there's adequate meristem tissue to regenerate new growth. (An agave's meristem cells are at the core, or heart, where leaves join roots. It's prime grub fodder.)
-- An organic control currently being tested is a pheromone trap designed to attract adult beetles in search of mates.
-- Weevil-resistant Agave varieties do exist and are being selected and cultivated. (Sometimes you'll see seemingly unaffected plants alongside diseased ones.) Tissue-culture labs make it possible to produce quantities of plants over a short period of time, which is likely the future of commercially-sold members of the Agaveaceae family.
-- The weevil seems less inclined toward those with thin, flexible leaves, such as Agave attenuata; those with tough, hard-to-pierce leaves (such as agaves desmetiana, murpheyi, parryi, lophantha 'Quadricolor', 'Sharkskin', triangularis, victoriae-reginae and vilmoriniana); and those with slender, nonjuicy leaves such as agaves bracteosa, filifera and geminiflora. See photos on my website's Agaves page.

An agave in Jeanne Meadow's garden a year after being treated for active snout-weevil infestation. The weevil had consumed part of the core, but enough remained intact that the plant was able to grow new roots.


How one homeowner does it: Succulent collector Jeanne Meadow is well versed in the fauna and flora of her large garden in Fallbrook, California, midway between Riverside and San Diego. Jeanne, an ace researcher, has become an expert on the agave snout-nose weevil. She says people tend to assume most nursery plants are pest-free, yet that’s the primary way snout weevil enters gardens. When an agave in her garden shows signs of infestation, she removes it and every plant for several feet surrounding it. Then she sifts the soil and picks out grubs and beetles. “It’s a huge undertaking,” Jeanne says. “Fortunately they’re slow crawlers."

To remove a diseased agave

1. Place a tarp around the plant.
2. Position a wheelbarrow nearby. Make sure the tarp covers the ground between it and the agave.
3. Dig up the agave and put in the wheelbarrow.
4. Dig out more dirt to a depth of 12 inches (deeper if you find grubs) and about 12 inches from where the base of the plant was.
5. As you transfer the soil to the wheelbarrow, inspect it for grubs and weevils.
6. The beetles "are hard to crush," Jeanne says. "I use a hammer."
7. Take the wheelbarrow to a paved area, like your driveway, so if beetles escape they're easy to spot.
8. Transfer into heavy-duty trash bags, sprinkle contents with insecticide, and triple-tie.
9. Seal any rips with duct tape.
10. Drench the soil where the agave was with insecticide.

Aren't insecticides bad for the environment? 

Although neither Jeanne nor I advocate inorganic pesticides, and we certainly aren't licensed pest control experts, we strongly believe that the responsible thing to do is to share knowledge with others based on research and personal experience, and to do what we can to prevent the beetle from spreading. "This is an emergency situation," Jeanne says. "The pest is spreading like crazy and has to be brought under control." According to agave experts, growers, and pest management specialists, the best approach is preemptive: drench the soil around healthy agaves with a systemic insecticide that has imidacloprid as the main ingredient.*

Hire a licensed pest control expert

The going rate is $175/hr., but you'll know for certain that everything is done safely and protects the environment while eradicating the pest from your property. One in the San Diego area is Chris Mizoguchi,

Don't panic, but do pass the word

It's only a matter of time before weevils in neighbors' agaves find their way to yours (and vice-versa). The unfortunate reality is that agave owners who do nothing are inadvertently aiding the proliferation of a serious pest, and may incur the expense and inconvenience of removing prized, immense and spiky plants. I suggest you:
-- Send close neighbors a friendly email with a link to this page.
-- Post about agave snout weevil on your neighborhood's online forum. If possible, include a photo of an infested agave.
-- Copy-and-paste part or all of this into an email to the editor of your community newsletter. (All I ask is to be credited. With, of course, a link.)

Don't assume your agaves won't be affected 

Although snout-nosed weevils can’t fly (yes, there are such things as flightless beetles), they sure can walk. I first suspected that snout-nose had arrived in my backcountry community northeast of San Diego when I noticed a collapsed Agave americana in a friend's garden. I could barely believe it. She lives atop a rocky hill surrounded by acres and acres of native chaparral. Either the weevil had arrived via infested nursery stock (on a different agave most likely, seeing as the sick plant was part of an old colony), or it had walked in. I've since observed that it takes a captive weevil ten days to die despite receiving no water nor food. The entire time, it was mobile and capable of traveling 4 inches per second. Had I released it, it easily could have gone several blocks (at least). It also was a surprisingly good climber.

Consider: If a dying agave hosts dozens of grubs that turn into beetles, and if each takes off in a different direction, one or more will certainly find another agave.

A tiny concern. If your goal is to kill snout weevils before they spread, a systemic ought to do it, but it's uncertain how much damage the puncture hole causes. The weevil is a vector (carrier) of Erwinia carotovora, a micro-organism that decomposes plant tissues, enabling grubs to easily consume it. I'm hopeful, and it seems likely, that the bacteria doesn't go deeper unless spread by live grubs. Moreover, as I mention below (see "Good News"), bitten agaves have been known to recover.

GREEN ALERT: Insecticides may kill beneficial insects as well as pests and may disrupt your garden's natural predator-prey balance. Snout weevils have coexisted with agaves for millennia and are naturally preyed upon by reptiles, birds and mammals (though the spines that protect an agave from predation also protect the weevil). Systemics, as the name implies, transmit insecticides through a plant's system. Some studies have indicated that bees and birds are not harmed by the nectar of treated plants, and that animals farther up the food chain are not at risk. Even so, when a treated agave begins to form a bloom spike, it's wise to cut it off before buds open. Use insecticides sparingly and follow label directions. Don't pour the solution (or for that matter, anything inorganic) into drains or gutters.

UPDATE: This item from Chemical and Engineering News, Dec. 16, 2018, indicates that imidacloprid may have been erroneously faulted for killing honeybees:

"Researchers in the UK report new evidence that the pesticide fipronil, not the neonicotinoid imidacloprid, caused a massive die-off of honeybees in France from 1994 to 1998  (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2018, DOI:10.1073/pnas.1804934115).  Both pesticides hit the market in the early 1990s...The researchers determined that bees rapidly eliminate imidacloprid from their bodies, but they bioaccumulate fipronil."**

Weevil control without pesticides

Remove an agave at first sign of infestation and sift grubs and weevils out of the soil. (Feed them to your chickens or put them out with the trash in sealed plastic bags.) Don’t plant agaves in that part of your garden again, and watch your other agaves for signs of infestation. It's possible that beneficial nematodes may be effective. They do kill larvae, but I've yet to find out if they'll work against snout grubs. (Check back.)

Earthworm castings destroy beetle exoskeletons, advises Pat Welsh, author of Pat Welsh's Southern California Organic Gardening: Month by Month. In Jan, 2018, in response to this post, she wrote: "Purchase earthworm castings and spread them on top of soil surrounding agaves. Keep it up. Earthworm castings kill all insect pests and are a great barrier to the ones that live in the ground under plants. Weevils walk on top of soil and cannot cross earthworm castings or they die. This is because earthworm castings contain chitinase, an enzyme that destroys chitin. The exoskeletons of insects are made of chitin."

Economic impact

According to the Global Invasive Species Database, "Scyphophorus acupunctatus is becoming a major pest of native Agavaceae and Dracaenaceae species worldwide. From Mexico, it has decimated populations of Agave crops there, in particular those used in the tequila industry. The importation of ornamental Agave plants worldwide has facilitated S. acupunctatus to establish in many parts of the world, particularly in Central America and the Caribbean, in Africa, Asia and South America."

Preventative measures

Plant agaves bare-root. Before planting, remove an agave from its nursery pot, set the plant (root ball and all) in a wheelbarrow, and hose the soil from the roots. Examine the plant for beetles and puncture holes, and the soil for grubs. If a plant is infested, destroy it and inform the source nursery. Jeanne notes that when chased, weevils head back to the agave for shelter. "They don't try to escape from the wheelbarrow." Btw, after observing grubs kept alive in soil-filled jars, Jeanne says that when deprived of an agave to feed on, grubs don't pupate (turn into weevils). See how in my video. 

Grow agaves in pots. In areas where snout weevil is known to be active, plant agaves in containers like urns. You'll know that the soil is OK because it came from a bag; you can easily get rid of infested soil should beetles show up; and when you apply a preventative drench, only the soil in the container is affected. Additional advantages are that pots elevate agaves for better viewing, enabling them to serve as garden focal points even when small. Potentially immense, pupping agaves (such as A. americana species) grow more slowly in containers, which also serve to corral their offsets.

The big green agave at left is likely a hybrid of A. salmiana; at right is A. franzosinii. In the foreground is what Jeanne Meadow calls "snout-weevil candy": A. americana 'Mediopicta Alba'.

Watch susceptible plants. Keep an eye on all your agaves, especially mature ones about to bloom because they're loaded with weevil-attracting carbohydrates. The pest seems to prefer specimens of Agave americana and its variegates (striped varieties), as well as closely related Agave franzosinii (one of the largest agaves). Reportedly, it may infest other genera in the Agavaceae family, such as Nolina, Beaucarnea, Yucca, and Furcraea. I've heard, but have yet to confirm, that it also attacks Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus) and possibly barrel cacti -- but symptoms may simply be due to a different bug. After all, it's a Pandora's box out there.

Don't give up on agaves! 

"Snout-nose shouldn't discourage anyone from planting agaves," Jeanne says. "There IS hope, and my garden is a great example of that." She adds that the imidacloprid drench---which degrades over time---has had no apparent impact on her garden's overall health and ecosystem, "including its population of beneficial insects, reptiles, birds, and amphibians."

More info

**Chemical & Engineering News, Dec. 16, 2018: "Fibronil blamed for historical bee deaths" 

UC Nursery and Floracultural Alliance Regional Report, Spring 2016, "Agave Pests"

Global Invasive Species Database

Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ

Pam Penick's blog post: "Evil Weevils! Agaves Under Attack in Austin"

Tropical Texana blog:

View my 7-minute YouTube video, Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment

NOTE: This post first appeared in August, 2016. I've updated it several times, most recently in Dec., 2018.  I welcome your comments. -- Debra

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  • 46


  1. Jeff Romek on January 19, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Hi Debra, Thanks for the article. I found one of my agave mediopicta alba plants was infested when it topped over as I pushed on it. The roots were completely gone and it had weevils boring into the bottom. Oddly, the top of the plant didn’t show many signs except the leaves were beginning to cup inward and it looked somewhat anemic. The nursery I purchased it from said this was common (I suspect they sell lots of infested plants) and told me to remove it and soak the plant bottom in a solution of water and liquid insecticide to kill the bug and then replant it. They referred me to Grangettos who they said would give me the products needed. I’m at work so I don’t have the exact product name but it was a Bayer product and basically a broad spectrum insecticide that kills everything. I soaked the plant as directed and put it in a pot treated with a granular formulation of the same product and left it there until it looked happy and started growing again. I lose track of time but this was probably 3 – 4 months. Then I removed it to find nice new roots and put it back in the ground where it was originally planted. I also treated the other plants with the granular product. Nursing it back to health in a pot may have been overkill.

    • Debra on January 21, 2017 at 10:07 pm

      Hi Jeff — I’m surprised they told you to treat and replant it. Its meristem tissue must have been somewhat intact. The thing is, the weevil injects a microbe into the agave that softens its tissues, so that the grubs can eat it. I’ve never heard of an agave surviving that. I’m very glad yours did, but I’d hesitate to recommend others try it. Usually the plant is too far gone.

      UPDATE, Jan. 2018: I’ve since heard of agaves regenerating after infestation. Very good news! But of course if the core is too far gone, it’s best to destroy the plant and get rid of any beetles and grubs.

  2. Debra on September 6, 2017 at 7:59 am

    I called the manufacturer to find out the how much Imacloprid concentrate to dilute with how much water, because the information is not not on the label, and all their “expert” would do is read me the label. However, I did find this helpful info on the San Diego Master Gardener’s website: “Gardeners can buy Bayer Advanced Garden Tree and Shrub insect control (with 1.47 percent imidacloprid). You can use as little as one tablespoon of the insecticide in two gallons of water. Apply it in late February or early March. This seems to provide good control of the weevil in my East San Diego County landscape. — Peggy Katz

  3. Tina Cremer, H2 Xero Landscape Design & Maintenance on January 19, 2018 at 10:16 am

    Hi Debra,
    I have my pesticide license and use systemic organic product that I would like to test on the snout weevil. If you are interested and if you find infected plants, email me and we can set up an experiment.

    • Debra on January 19, 2018 at 10:59 am

      Hi everyone — Tina is in Orange County. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if there were an organic systemic that was effective? Thanks, Tina, for the info. Please keep us posted!

      • Tina on December 29, 2018 at 12:35 pm

        Hi, I need an infected plant to test. So far, there are no ASW’s on my Yuccas or Agaves.

  4. Pat Welsh on January 19, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Imadacloprid is killing bees. It is one of the worst ever pesticides and will end up killing us also. Instead of that, purchase earthworm castings and spread them on top of soil surrounding agaves. Keep it up. Earthworm castings kill all insect pests and are a great barrier to the ones that live in the ground under plants. Weevils walk on top of soil and cannot cross earthworm castings or they die. This is because earthworm castings contain chitinase, an enzyme that destroys chitin. The exoskeletons of insects are made of chitin.

    • Glenn M. on June 27, 2018 at 12:15 pm

      I lost a couple of Agave Blue Flame recently here in San Marcos. I have two left as well as other, more susceptible agaves. I don’t like the idea of using chemicals/insecticides so I will start using earthworm casings. Thanks for the advice, Pat! And, keep up the great work Debra!!

  5. Preston on May 9, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Great presentation on the snout weevil. Great pictures and summaries. Hard work to stop that weevil! Wonder what the difference is between and weevil and a beetle? -Will have to Google.

  6. Don Clements on May 21, 2019 at 11:31 am

    The weevil lays its eggs in a tiny hole in the bud. This hole is often accompanied by several weevils. From that tiny hole the larvae burrow downward as they grow and metamorphose in the base of the plant. If you walk around periodically and examine the buds of your larger species you can catch the original infestation as it happens and avoid treating a heavily infested and damaged agave or yucca. I would of course treat at this initial phase any way. These things have infested Yucca aloifolia very badly here in the east for several decades. Fortunately the Yuccas fall over and the top reroots once the trunk has been eaten out by the larvae. The top of the yucca is minimally damaged because of the size of the young larvae near the starting point. This is probably why the agave bud shows damage much later than the outer or lower leaves.
    I don’t top drench my agavacea. Have found that a pump sprayer on squirt instead of spray gets the poison where it is needed (base of bud and roots) and should reduce bi-kill of beneficial insects.

  7. Paula Rankin on February 4, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    Sadly, today I removed a 4’ x 4’ agave from my yard. It fell over and was massively infected with snout weevils. I believe it was a blue agave, similar to the one shown in the upper right of the photo of 3 different agaves included in your article.

    Since your article was written about a year ago, I am wondering if you currently believe dowsing soil with Imidaclorprid is still the best treatment. I have read other articles which suggest using triazanon (which I am unable to find in a Google search) or bifenthrin.

    Also, have you now had experience using worm casings?

    I am in Yucca Valley near Joshua Tree National Park. If the Snout Weevil gets a firm foothold here in the Morongo Basin, it could be devastating!

    Thanks in advance for any additional thoughts you can share.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on February 4, 2020 at 2:04 pm

      Hi Paula — I’m not yet familiar with those you mention. I’ve sent this along to Jeanne Meadow to ask her to weigh in. Thanks for asking!

  8. Caitlin Revell on July 12, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks so much for this info. I have a client in Los Angeles with several huge century agave that are absolutely infested. One was beyond saving but we are trying to save the others based on your advice!

  9. Rosa Cruz on July 25, 2020 at 4:32 pm

    Great article! I lost a big blue agave last year, since then I keep a close eye on the rest, today I found the weevil on the yuccas, already try to control the damage, but notice tons of little insects smaller than ants in the area, is it possible that the damage will extend to a mezquite tree, right next to the yuccas?
    From El Paso TX

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on July 25, 2020 at 4:42 pm

      Hi Rosa — The insects you describe must be native to your area, because they don’t sound like anything I’m familiar with here in Southern CA. As for snout weevil moving on to mesquite, no worries, woody plants aren’t susceptible.

  10. regina greer-smith on September 11, 2020 at 11:25 am

    I have a blue agave & small ones that I think are infested with the snout weevil. I live in Apple Valley CA in the high desert. Any advice?

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 11, 2020 at 12:35 pm

      Hi Regina — Now that the weather has cooled is a perfect time to treat them. In the article above, scroll to How to preventatively treat your agaves in red type.

      • regina greer-smith on September 11, 2020 at 7:21 pm

        Thank you. Have subscribed to your YouTube channel & shared with our Sun City HIA. What is a good insecticide to use and which agave is best that the weevil won’t eat? Many thanks in advance

        • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 11, 2020 at 9:04 pm

          Hi Regina —
          Agave experts, growers, and pest management specialists advise drenching the soil around healthy agaves with a systemic insecticide containing imidacloprid.
          The weevil seems less inclined toward those with thin, flexible leaves, such as Agave attenuata; those with tough, hard-to-pierce leaves (such as agaves desmetiana, murpheyi, parryi, lophantha ‘Quadricolor’, ‘Sharkskin’, triangularis, victoriae-reginae and vilmoriniana); and those with slender, nonjuicy leaves such as agaves bracteosa, filifera and geminiflora. See photos on this site’s Agave’s page.

          • regina greer-smith on September 11, 2020 at 10:07 pm

            Thanks again. I’ve shared on our HOA Facebook group. Many thought gophers were eating their agaves so your information has been very helpful. My gardeners and I now have a plan of action👍🏽

  11. Wayne Clark on September 11, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    Hi Debra –
    Thanks again for your great web site on the agave snout-nosed weevil. While we do not currently have agave in our yard, there are numerous varieties throughout our community, city and region (Corte Bella, Sun City West and Phoenix, AZ) and many collapsing, no doubt because of the weevil. When we first moved here from California I attempted two Blue Flame Agave in decorative pots in our front courtyard and we lost both though I couldn’t figure out why at the time. Both showed significant core rot though I don’t recall seeing any weevils or their grubs. After watching the video on your web site I am pretty sure the weevils got them. We purchased them at Home Depot and I did not, until now, know to “Bare root” them as described in your video. Thanks to you, we are now more knowledgeable and will try again.

    I have emailed our HOA with a request that they post an article on our community website and in our community periodical. The following link should get anyone to the email if they are interested.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 11, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks, Wayne, for sharing first-hand experience and making others aware of this insidious pest. For those who might like to cut-and-paste the email you sent to your HOA, here’s an edited version:

      I have been noticing the failure of numerous agave plants throughout our community.
      Sadly, the infestation is rapidly growing throughout the Southwest. It is vitally important that information contained on the Internet at the link below be disseminated
      via all channels available to us, or the infestation will continue with resultant loss of this magnificent plant.
      I urge you to post this alert on our community website, publish it in the local paper, and forward it with a request for further distribution to any other channels you think may be effective in getting the word out.

      Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment | Debra Lee Baldwin

      7-minute YouTube video, Agave Snout Weevil Prevention and Treatment:

  12. regina greer-smith on September 17, 2020 at 10:51 am

    Hi Debra. I purchased the insecticide recommended from Amazon & applies 2 days ago to all agaves. I’m trying to save them. The large one is very infected & saw the weevil run out when we applied the insecticide. We have 4 smaller ones. The landscaping committee in our HOA in Sun City Apple Valley CA sent an alert to all homeowners with the info I shared from your website. Will stay in touch. I feel empowered to be an Agave Guardian

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 17, 2020 at 10:53 am

      Hi Regina — I hope you caught it in time, and that your HOA gets the word out. Yes, do stay in touch!

      • regina greer-smith on September 18, 2020 at 4:38 pm

        Hi Debra I just joined your Facebook Group

        • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 18, 2020 at 8:18 pm


  13. Ellen Grolman on September 17, 2020 at 3:42 pm

    Hello, I wish I could post a photo to show what my agave looks like and so you could advise me on how to proceed. It took me a while to notice, I guess, but it looks like the leaves are being shredded down to the fibers. Does this sound familiar? Can you help? I can’t seem to find any photos on the internet that are similar to what is happening to my plant. There’s anothe agave within a few feet of the dying (?) infected (?) one and one afraid I’m going to lose that one as well. Would appreciate any help.

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 17, 2020 at 7:01 pm

      Hi Ellen — The consensus from the Facebook Agave Group is deer damage. It seems this is the rutting season.

  14. regina greer-smith on September 22, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Debra

    Some good news. Found 6 dead snout nosed weevils near my agave & the plants seem to have stabilized. I see no new deterioration. Also, new ones are beginning to grow. I put the dead weevils in a baggy & posted on our community Facebook pages I think I’ve begun ran agave folk hero

    • Debra Lee Baldwin on September 22, 2020 at 7:27 pm

      Regina! That’s wonderful! Really appreciate your sharing this good news. I sure hope it isn’t premature. But hey…dead beetles!

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