Yellow poplar weevils, also known as sassafras or magnolia weevils, are small black snout beetles that occasionally damage yellow poplar, sassafras, and magnolia.
Adults chew distinctive holes in the leaves that resemble curved rice grains in size and shape (Figure 1). The larval stage, a white legless grub, develops and feeds inside the leaves of poplar and sassafras. The combined activity of adults and larvae can cause significant leaf loss. While injured leaves cause the trees to be unsightly, damage to established trees probably does not affect its overall health.
There is one generation of this insect each year. Adults pass winter in leaf litter, becoming active and feeding during warm days in late April and early May. Before bud break, weevils attack swelling buds leaving their distinctive feeding marks. As leaves unfold and enlarge, they, too, are fed upon. Holes in leaves, about 1/8 inch in diameter (Figure 2), result from adult weevils puncturing buds or feeding on lower surfaces of leaves.
By Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist