A description is given of the damage caused by the larvae of two weevils, Systates exaptus Mshl. and Mesoleurus dentipes (Mshl.), which are soil pests of germinating maize and other crops in Rhodesia. Information is given on their life-cycles and some features of their biology. The larvae are nearly full grown at the beginning of the dry season, which is passed in an inactive state in the soil. Activity is resumed with the onset of the main rains, and it is at this time that the larvae may cause serious damage by attacking seedlings of maize or other crops growing in infested soil. Factors that encourage local increase of field populations are examined. It is shown that sunn hemp, soya bean and groundnut, all crops with high plant populations, favour the presence of large numbers of weevil larvae in the soil at the beginning of the following season. Growing closely planted maize year after year on the same land has been found to be one of the main causes of serious infestations in farm fields.
Results of soil-insecticide trials are given, and these show that larvae are very difficult to control. In the discussion, attention is drawn to similar weevil larvae indigenous to other parts of Africa, which are tolerant of soil insecticides and are also pests under conditions of intensive crop production.
Ways are suggested for reducing infestation in the following season. It is shown that properly timed applications of DDT to the maize crop will kill adults and prevent oviposition. Otherwise, infested fields may be left fallow, planted to grass or planted very late in the season.
No method of protecting germinating seedlings has been found, but reference is made to a soil-sampling technique that is useful for detecting infested fields before crops are planted.