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Agricultural Experiment Station 





The corn " bill-bugs " are snout-beetles of various size and 
color, but averaging- rather large, the majority of them dull black, 
with the surface much marked with small pits and narrow grooves. 
In form they are somewhat regularly oval, with thick bodies, round- 
ed above and beneath, and with rather long " snouts " or " beaks " 
of medium strength, bent downward from the front of the head. 
They injure and often kill young corn in spring by thrusting the 
beak into the stem of the plant near its base and eating out the in- 
ner tissue beneath the point of puncture. Their presence in the 
field is very soon made manifest by the appearance of circular or 
oblong holes running in rows across the blade of the leaf, each row 
resulting from a single thrust of the beak when the leaves were 
closely rolled together in the young plant. The injury done varies- 
from insignificance up to complete destruction of practically every 
plant in several acres of corn and for two or three successive plant- 

In the Sixteenth Report of this office, for the years 1886-8& 
( but published in 1890 ), is an article on these insects summarizing 
briefly the results of observations then the most recent and the 


436 BULLETIN NO. jg. [October, 

contents of previously published articles on the subject, but propos- 
ing- no preventive or remedial measure except a single one for the 
prevention of injuries to corn by the clay-colored bill-bug 1 , Sphenoph- 
orus ochreus, on newly drained and freshly broken swampy fields. 
This preventive measure consists merely in planting- the ground 
broken up from the swamp grasses to some other crop than corn 
for the first year, flax being- especially suggested. 

For the ordinary injuries to corn on old ground I had at that 
time no definite measure to propose, but a fuller knowledge of the 
life histories and habits of the' bill-bugs and some observations 
lately made in both recently subdued swamp lands and old upland 
fields have furnished a sufficient basis for a highly useful method 
of prevention of the worst of these injuries, and this fact has made 
desirable a new treatment of the subject as a whole. 


While there is in Illinois a little general and unclassifiable in- 
jury to corn by the bill-bugs, by far the greater part of it occurs 
under one of three conditions. If swamp lands are broken up from 
grass in spring and planted to corn the same year, and especially 
if the common reed or the club-rush or other thick-stemmed grasses 
with bulbous roots are common in the turf, the corn is extremely 
likely to be badly injured if not wholly destroyed by one of the 
swamp-loving species of this group. If such land is poorly culti- 
vated, allowing these bulb-root grasses to grow up again, the 
injury may continue for at least another year. If an old timothy 
sod, either pure or mixed with some other grass, is plowed in spring 
and planted immediately to corn, this crop is likely to be severely 
injured by other and smaller species than those which attack 
the crop in swamps. I have known but one case of any consider- 
able injury by these insects to a field of corn in Illinois except un- 
der one of the above conditions. 


The explanation of these facts is to be found in the life history 
of the various species commonest in our region, and in the food and 
feeding habits of the larvae. The largest of our bill-bugs breed 
mainly and naturally in the bulbous roots of two or three large, 
grass-like swamp plants, sedges, rushes, and the like. The ma- 
jority of the species of medium size live chiefly in fields of tim- 
othy, the larvae feeding on the root bulbs of that grass; and one 
or two of the smallest species may feed either on timothy bulbs or 
on roots of blue-grass in meadows, pastures, and lawns. 


So far as I know the bill-bug's pass the winter in the beetle 
stage, in the ground, under rubbish, or in other protected situations, 
and all whose life history has been at all closely observed in Illi- 
nois make their appearance in spring-, chiefly in fields in which they 
have lived as larvae and where they have fed on the roots of grasses 
the preceding year. 

As the adult beetles feed in nature on the same plants as their 
larvaa there is little to tempt them to migrate from one field to an- 
other, and the facts lately collected in this state concerning the 
previous history of badly injured fields clearly indicate that the 
beetles pass the winter, as a rule, in the same fields in which they 
passed through their earlier stages, provided that these fields have 
been undisturbed. 


From this it follows and experience has amply confirmed the 
conclusion that if a field of grass infested by corn bill-bugs be 
plowed in fall before the time of insect hibernation has begun it 
will be but lightly infested by them, if at all, the following- year. 
Early fall or summer plowing of grass lands intended for corn is 
thus an effective measure of prevention against injury to that crop 
the following year. 

Injury to corn by these beetles has now become so frequent and 
in some cases so severe, and the facts concerning- the species are so 
little known, that a full detail of our present knowledge which 
bears on the subject in a practical way seems to be particularly de- 

(Sphenophorus parvulus Gyll. ) 

Sphenophorus parvulus, one of the smallest of the bill-bugs, is 
essentially an upland species, breeding commonly in the ordinary 
cultivated grasses, especially in blue-grass and timothy. It is 
sometimes abundant in city lawns ; it is one of the species responsi- 
ble for a considerable injury to timothy meadows; and it frequently 
infests corn following upon the meadow grasses, although, owing 
to its small size, its injuries to this crop are comparatively slight 
except while the plant is young. 

This little bill-bug is better represented in our collections than 
any other species, and as we have repeatedly reared it from the 
larva to the imago in confinement we have a comparatively full 
knowledge of its life history. On this account it will be convenient 

438 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

to treat it first in this discussion in order that it may be used as a 
standard of comparison for the species whose life histories are less 
fully known. 


Occurrences of the Adult Beetle. We have forty-one Illinios 
collections of the adult beetle of this species recorded, extending 1 
from March 18 to October, and representing thirteen years between 
1882 and 1901. A serial account of these collections, in order of 
the calendar but disregarding 1 the years, will enable us to trace the 
species fairly well through the season and to note the variations 
and transformations of its habits and its food. 

Our earliest collection was made March 18, 1882, at Kappa, in 
Woodford county, where living 1 beetles were found among- dead leaves 
in woodlands, evidently still in hibernation. Next, April 7, 1897, 
it was collected at Urbana on blue-grass sod under boards lying 
where they had been placed as an attraction to cutworms seeking 
shelter by night. On this same date in 1882 it was obtained in a 
woodland lot south of Bloomington. April 14, 1897, it was collected 
under boards on grass at Normal, and April 16, 1887, at Edgewood, 
in Effingham county, in a badly damaged old timothy meadow. It 
was here hidden on the ground under dead vegetation, and was 
apparently still in its hibernation quarters. Occasional bulbs of 
this timothy had been hollowed out the year before in the manner 
characteristic of the work of Sphenophorus larvae, but this injury 
was comparatively insignificant. 

On April 17, 1894, it occurred at Urbana in a tuft of volun- 
teer wheat, apparently having left its winter quarters at this time 
. and resorted to the growing wheat for food. April 19, 1887, a 
single specimen was found under a fence rail lying on the grass, 
the head of it covered with mites ( Gamasidce ) of the kind which 
frequently infest old beetles. This specimen was certainly not 
fresb, but must have hibernated as an adult. On the 24th and 
25th of April, 1884, it was obtained in the course of miscellaneous 
entomological collections at Normal and Bloomington, in McLean 
county; and again on the 30th of the same month and year, in 
sweeping blue-grass at Normal with the insect net.. In this last 
case, again, it had apparently begun to feed. May 4, .1892, it was 
brought in at Urbana from under boards, and May 6, 1887, was 
found at the same place on grass. 

Our earliest date for an injury to corn is May 15, 1891, report- 
ed by S. P. Campbell, of Loami, Sangamon county, III. " These 
beetles," says Mr. Campbell, "insert the proboscis and each leg 


into the stalk and absorb all the sap, leaving- small holes in the 
plant, weakening- it very much. " This injury seemed to be g-ener- 
al in Mr. Campbell's neighborhood, as he says that " considerable 
interest is taken in the matter, " and that "an answer to my in- 
quiries will gratify many. " 

May 19, 1887, it was found at Champaign doing- a very con- 
siderable injury to corn on sod. A single specimen was taken just 
below the surface of the soil with the beak inserted in the stalk. 
At Jerseyville on the 20th of May, 1891, another specimen was 
taken from about an inch below the surface on a stalk of corn three 
or four inches high, which it had injured sufficiently to cause the 
leaves to wilt. At Champaig-n May 21 and 22, 1888, it was ob- 
tained from corn plants in a field which had lately been plowed 
from grass. As these beetles had often been said to suck the sap 
of the stalks they pierce, one of these specimens was dissected to 
determine the nature of its food, and this was found to consist of 
bits of the characteristic epidermis of grass-like plants and of par- 
allel-veined veg-etation containing 1 spiral vessels evidence,of course, 
that its injuries to corn are done by biting- and swallowing- the sub- 
stance of the plant and not by sucking- the sap. This specimen 
was a female, well filled with fully matured egg's. 

On the 24th of May, 1897, at Union Grove, Whiteside county, 
it was found very abundant on corn below the surface ; and at Ur- 
bana, May 24, 1889, a specimen was taken from a stem of grass 
which it had punctured through the sheath of the second leaf from 
the ground. May 25, 1901, at Knoxville, in Knox county, several 
specimens were taken from corn growing in sod. The beetle was 
doing a rather serious injury throughout the field. On the 26th 
of May, 1885, one was taken with its beak thrust into a stalk of 
young corn about three inches high, the puncture being made an 
inch above the ground. The beetle was so engrossed with its feed- 
ing that it remained attached after the corn was pulled up and un- 
til it was forcibly picked away. On the 27th of May, 1887, a speci- 
men was found under a board on the grass, and on the same day of 
the month in 1901 another was taken from young corn at Oneida, 
in Knox county. On the 28th of May, 1901, specimens were brought 
in as injuring young corn at Buda, Bureau county, and also on the 
31st of that month in 1887 at Rankin, in Vermilion county. 

June 7, 1884, a beetle was taken near Du Quoin with its snout 
inserted in a stalk of wheat close to the ground. June, 8, 14, and 
16, 1882, it occurred in miscellaneous collections in McLean county; 
and on the 28th of June, 1900, it was seen at Griggsville, Illinois, 
feeding on a corn plant eighteen inches high. It was at the sur- 

440 BULLETIN NO. 7Q. [October, 

face of the ground with its beak thrust far into the stalk. At the 
same place on the next day it was taken from timothy, many of 
the plants at this time being- infested by the larvae of this species. 
July 1 to 10, 1883, it was collected at Normal, Illinois, and on the 
19th and 21st of July, 1891, it was obtained at Urbana. On the 
30th of July, 1900, it appeared in a breeding-cage, reared from 
larvae which had been taken in timothy bulbs at Griggsville June 
26. The transformations of this lot of larvae were not yet com- 
plete July 30, the earth containing on this date eight beetles, one 
pupa, and four larvae all alive. In August, 1892, it appeared in a 
breeding-cage of Professor Webster, in Ohio, bred from larvae of 
that year. September 20, 1893, a specimen was found on the 
ground in a corn field near Urbana ; and on the 24th of September, 
1885, one was seen in a breeding-cage which had been stocked with 
larvae from timothy bulbs at Normal July 13. The date of trans- 
formation is unknown as this breeding-cage had been neglected, 
no examination having been made since August 3. 

September 25, 1882, a specimen was taken at Elmira, in Stark 
county, in the course of general collections of insects on corn. In 
October, 1882, it was found at Normal, the conditions not being 
recorded ; and on the 5th of October, 1885, it was taken from a 
breeding-cage of timothy larvae established July 13, but which had 
not been previously disturbed since August 11. 

From these data it is plain that this bill-bug hibernates as a 
beetle in ordinary situations ; that on coming out from its winter 
quarters it takes its first food from blue-grass, young wheat, and 
similar vegetation ; that it transfers its attentions to corn with the 
first appearance of the plants, affecting that crop most generally 
and injuriously on timothy or blue-grass sod ; that it may continue 
to feed on corn as late as the latter part of June, even when the 
plant is eighteen inches high, but that it distributes its attentions 
also over the grasses and grains ; and that the beetles of the new 
generation which begin to appear as early as August emerge, at 
least in part, from their subterranean cells, and secrete themselves 
for hibernation as reported above. 

Occurrences of Immature Stages. Larvae of S. parvulus have 
been noted in the course of our work at various dates from June 11 
to October 22, the last a single instance of what was perhaps de- 
layed pupation in a neglected breeding-cage. The intermediate 
dates are June 13, 16, 26, 27, and 28, July 4, 13, 21, and 30, and 
August 10. The larva taken at this last date was boring the 
crown of a timothy bulb on the grounds of the Experiment Station 
at Urbana. It was transferred to a breeding-cage, where it re- 


mained without special attention until October 22, at which time 
it was still feeding- on the timothy. All our specimens have been 
taken from the root bulbs of timothy, but the larva is reported 
by Webster ('93) to occur occasionally in wheat, and by Bruner 
('92) sometimes to infest blue-grass lawns in sufficient numbers to 
kill large patches of sod. 

Pupae have occurred in the course of our work on July 24 and 
30, but eggs have not been seen by us at all. Webster ('92) ob- 
served oviposition as late as July 1, and inferred that the eggs are 
mainly laid late in May and in June. 

I find in these data no definite indication of more than a single 
brood, unless the facts reported concerning the larva brought in 
August 10 should be so interpreted. It seems to me more likely, 
however, that this was a belated member of the same brood as the 
other larvae reared by us, and that its pupation was retarded by 
neglect. Our failure to find pupae except in the middle of the sea- 
son is negative evidence of the absence of a second brood. It is of 
course true, on the other hand, that in the absence of numerous 
continuous experiments in the breeding of separate individuals, no 
final statement can be made with respect to the number of genera- 

Briefly stated, as now understood, the life history is substan- 
tially as follows : Hibernating in the imago, the beetle lays the 
eggs in early summer, beginning probably in May ; larvas hatch 
in June and doubtless for some weeks thereafter ; pupation begins 
in July, and the final transformations to the adult, beginning late 
in that month, continue into August and possibly for some time 


The most definite and serious case of the destruction of corn 
by this beetle which has come to my knowledge was reported to me 
by Mr. Dalbey, of Taylorville, late in June, 1902. 

A visit to this place made June 30 by Mr. E. S. G. Titus 
showed that in a field of forty acres the injury was decidedly un- 
equal but still very general. In one part of the field nearly every 
stalk on several acres had been injured, while in other parts the 
damage varied from twenty-five to fifty per cent, of the plants. 
This field had been in timothy for the four preceding years, and 
was broken up in April, 3902, and planted almost at once to corn. 

Some twenty timothy fields in this neighborhood were care- 
fully examined, and the root bulbs in all were more or less infested 
by the larvae of this bill-bug-. Fields two years in timothy after 

442 BULLKTIN NO. 79. [Oclober, 

corn or wheat showed ten to twenty per cent, of the plants infest- 
ed, while in those three and four years old from fifty to seventy- 
five per cent, were more or less injured, and contained larvae vary- 
ing" in size from medium to apparently full grown. 

A second field of corn on timothy sod, plowed early last fall 
and planted at the same time as the one first mentioned, contained 
not a trace of bill-bug 1 injury, although dead timothy bulbs still in 
the ground showed distinctly that they had been hollowed out by 
bill-bug- larvae. The contrast between these two fields of corn 
growing- on old timothy sod infested with the larvae of Sphenoph- 
orus the previous jear, one of the fields having- been plowed in 
April and the other in early fall, was particularly significant, and 
amounted in fact, to a demonstration of the preventive effect of the 
fall plowing- of such lands. 


This species has been several times taken on corn in Illinois, 
but the most notable instance of its injuries to that crop was giv- 
en me by Mr. Joseph Carter, of Rankin, Vermilion county. In a 
letter dated May 1, 1887, he incloses a specimen of this beetle with 
the statement that he found it below the surface of the ground eat- 
ing- into a corn plant, and that where the injured leaf appears 
above ground it is crossed by parallel rows of holes. He finds the 
beetles, he says, on every plant on an acre or two of corn, and in a 
letter of June 5 he adds that the beetle is destroying- some five or 
ten acres in an eig-hty-acre field. The corn in this field was plant- 
ed on fall plowing- after oats. The ground was dry and sandy and 
tiled every hundred fret. Subsequently I learned that this eighty 
lay adjacent to an old and run-down meadow of timothy with a little 
redtop intermixed, and that the injured patch of corn was near this 
meadow. It is to be inferred from this statement that the bill-bug-s 
had scattered out from this field of timothy to the adjacent corn in 
search of food. 

The life history of this species is not definitely known, its im- 
mature stag-es never having been distinguished so far as my infor- 
mation goes. Our earliest collection of the beetles was made April 
8, 1892, from overflowed land on a creek bottom near Urbana evi- 
dently a hibernating specimen. The next date of its occurrence is 
May 21, 1888, in lately plowed sod near Champaign ; and the next, 
May 31, 1887, as given above. June 1, 1895, it was found injuring 
corn in Leroy, in McLean county ; June 5, 1887, it was still at work 
in the field at Rankin ; June 14, 1882, it was taken at Normal in 
miscellaneous collections ; June 19, at Spring Valley, from young 


corn ; June 30, 1888, from driftwood in a small creek near Urbana 
after a flooding- storm ; and July 7 of the same year, from corn at 
Bement, 111., where it was doing- considerable injury. June 19, 
1902, it came to us from northern Illinois near Savanna ; June 20, 
1888, from corn fields in Whiteside county ; and Aug-ust 5, 1887, 
from Fourth Lake, in northern Illinois, where it was taken from 
bulrushes along- shore. So far as our data g-o they indicate a life 
history similar to that of the better-known species ; hibernation in 
the imag-o ; and an early attack on corn, with probably a midsum- 
mer breeding- period of a single generation. 

{Sphenophorus ochreus Lee.) 

Injury to Corn in Ford County, 1888. My first knowledge of 
the habits and life history of this species began with a letter writ- 
ten June 21, 1888, by Mr. J. A. Montelius, of Piper City, Ford 
county, to Professor G. E. Morrow, Dean of the College of Agri- 
culture at the University of Illinois. In this letter, which was ac- 
companied by four specimens of S ochreus, Mr. Montelius reported 
that these beetles were destroying the corn on new ground in his 
locality by eating into the stalk and boring to the heart of it with 
the effect to kill the plant. They were present in great numbers, 
and had destroyed a large part of the crop some of it several 
plantings in succession on the same laud. 

Visiting these fields on the 23d of June, 1888, I found them in 
a swamp area which had been recently drained by a large ditch. 
Some of these fields had been broken up and cropped the preceding 
year, but most of them were planted for the first time in 1888. On 
the farm of Mr. Montelius, six miles north of Piper City, a field of 
twenty-five acres had been once destroyed, and the second planting 
was so badly damaged that the crop had been abandoned and the 
ground was being sown to millet at the time. 

The injury consisted of long slit-like punctures of the stalk, 
beneath which the interior leaves and the stalk itself that is to 
say, all the more succulent and softer parts of the plant were ir- 
regularly but often completely eaten out. In the worst cases the 
plant was killed ; or, if the injury was less severe, the leaves were 
finally marked with more or less regular oblong holes extending 
lengthwise of the blade but forming rows across it. 

The injury thus done varied in position from a little below 
the surface of the ground to the middle or upper two thirds of the 
larger leaves. The beetles were often seen at work on young 

444 BULLETIN NO. 79. {October, 

stalks, head downward, with the beak inserted its full length. 
They were always on the lower part of the plant from an inch 
above the ground to a little below it, and as many as three of 
th"em were sometimes seen on a single stalk. They were not easily 
alarmed, but the plant might even be cutaway, if care were used, 
without disturbing- them. Although they clung closely to the 
plant, they could readily be picked off by the fingers ; and when 
thus disturbed they would feign death for a little time. 

The damage in this field was heaviest near the drainage 
ditch, where nearly every hill was badly eaten. This ground had 
been broken from swamp sod that spring, and the injury was slight 
except where two coarse grass-like plants were abundant, the com- 
mon reed, Phragmites communis, and the club-rush, Scirpus fl uviat- 
ilis. An examination of these plants showed an injury to both 
which was precisely similar to that done to corn, but affected the 
wild grasses much less seriously than the cultivated plant. The 
injury to the reed had apparently ceased, but the club-rush in un- 
broken sod adjacent was still infested, the beetles being there 
found at the upper part of the plant piercing the terminal row of 
leaves and eating out the interior as in corn. None were on these 
wild plants growing in the plowed fields, the beetles apparently 
preferring the corn as food. 

In a field separated from the foregoing by two or three rods of 
sod, and bearing now its second crop of corn, no appreciable dam- 
age had been done by these beetles, and here the reeds and rushes 
were wanting, having been completely killed by the second year of 

The sexes were pairing at this time, but no eggs were discov- 
ered by a careful search of punctures and excavations in all kinds 
of injured plants. 

On another farm, occupied by Mr. Dennis, a field of fifteen 
acres of corn was even more seriously injured This also had been 
broken up the same spring, and the reeds and rushes were very 
abundant in the lower ground, growing up through the sod. In 
such situations the corn had been completely destroyed, although 
replanted several times. 

In still another field, two miles away, belonging to Mr. Sulli- 
van, which had been broken from sod that spring, no damage by 
bill-bugs had been done, but in this field, which had been used as 
a pasture for several years, neither reeds nor rushes had grown. 

July 27, 1888, these same farms were visited by an assistant 
of the office, Mr. John Marten, who found the bill-bugs still pres- 


ent in small numbers and injury still in progress, although evi- 
dences of fresh work were few. 

In a field of a hundred and fourteen acres, belonging- to Mr. 
Dennis, eig-hty acres had been sown to millet after the destruction 
of the corn, a pulverizer being- used to prepare the ground. Here 
the millet had been considerably injured the lower part of the 
stem punctured by the beetle and cut off with the effect to 
kill the plant. In parts of the field the damage thus done amount- 
ed to eighty per cent, of the yield, althoug-h the plants had rallied 
to some extent by throwing- out new shoots from the root. Even 
the fox-tail grass ( Setaria ) had been similarly attacked to a small 
extent, and with the same result. 

On the next day, July 28, a visit was made to a field of swamp 
land which was then being- broken up for the first time. Many of 
the bulbs of the rushes were cut in two by the plow, and more than 
half of these had been excavated by the larvae of the bill-bugs, two 
of which were brought to the office alive. A considerable number 
of adult S. ochreus were crawling- in the furrows and over the fresh 
sod, and one dead bulb was found with the remains of an adult in 
the burrow. 

Experiment with Bill-bugs on Corn. July 3 a lot of these 
beetles from Piper City, sent from there June 29, were placed on 
hills of corn growing- under large frames covered with wire gauze, 
the bases of which were sunk four inches in the earth. By July 5 
several of these beetles had beg-un to feed, and on the 14th the corn 
was already badly eaten. On the 17th a stalk of this damaged 
corn was removed and critically examined, but no egg's were found. 
All the beetles were still alive except one male. The injuries to 
the corn were at this time numerous and severe, but the plants 
seemed rapidly growing- away from them, and the beetles had 
moved from the base of the stalk, which had doubtless become too 
hard for their jaws, to the terminal leaves and other growing- struc- 
tures, including the young- ears an inch to an inch and a half in 
length. The young- husks had been perforated and the ears were 
excavated lengthwise, practically destroying- them. Tassels and 
terminal leaves showed great recent injury, and the sheaths of 
leaves near the deeper punctures and excavations of the stem had 
often been gnawed into but not far enough to go through the 
sheath, the beetles having apparently found the tissues here too 
tough. On the 24th additional search was made for eggs on sev- 
eral stalks which were taken out of the earth for the purpose, but 
without success ; neither eggs nor trace of breeding- operations 
could be found in or about any part of the plant. The usual punc- 

446 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

tures and slits were abundant about the base of the stem, with some 
small discolored excavations also, but nothing- else. 

September 10, the remaining 1 contents of this cage were finally 
overhauled, but neither live beetles, eggs, nor larvae were found 
The stalks, roots, leaves, ears, and tassels had been much injured, 
the tassel and the upper part of the stalk perhaps most seriously so. 

The method of feeding 1 was carefully observed by both Mr. 
Marten and myself. Placing 1 itself head downward, with its stout 
leg's embracing 1 and firmly grasping 1 the stalk, the beetle applies 
the tip of its beak straight against the surface, cutting 1 the outer 
tissue with the mandibles, the action of which is distinctly audi- 
ble. Gradually, with an occasional twisting 1 motion of the head, 
it sinks two thirds or more of its snout into the stalk, and then, 
slightly rolling 1 its head from side to side with clock-like regular- 
ity, it uses its beak as a lever to split the stalk and pry the edges 
of the slit apart. It pauses from time to time to eat out the soft 
tissues within, and by moving 1 forward and backward and twisting 1 , 
to the right and left it often hollows out an interior cavity much 
larger than the surface injury would indicate. Then pulling 1 the 
head strongly backward with the compressed beak inserted, the 
stalk is split upward as a boy would split a stick with a knife. In 
this way a slit an inch long 1 may be made in the stalk of corn, be- 
neath which all the softer parts have been eaten out. 

Injuries in 1889. The following- year, 1889, similar and equal- 
ly serious injuries were done by this beetle in the Piper City dis- 
trict, according to a letter received from Mr. Montelius under date 
of May 21. At that time forty acres of corn belonging- to Mr. 
Towers had already been destroyed, while on the place occupied by 
Mr. Dennis the injury done was apparently fully as great as that 
of the preceding- year. 

A letter recently received from Mr. Montelius, dated August 8, 
1902, reports that injuries by the swamp-land bill-bugs ceased with 
the second year, and that nothing has been seen of them during 
the thirteen years since. The temporary nature of their attack on 
newly subjugated swamp-lands is thus definitely proven. 

Observations on Life History. Other occupations made it im- 
possible to return to this place, but late in the season the life his- 
tory of the species was taken up at Urbana by observations in a 
swampy field where the club-rush was common. 

July 2, nine specimens, two of which were copulating, were found 
in a large sedge, Cyperus strigosus, at the margins of a pond near 
Urbana. July 16, two eggs and larvae which proved later to be those 
of this species were discovered by Mr. Marten behind the leaf 


sheaths and in stems of ^. fluviatilis. Both were placed from two 
to four inches above the bulb, the eggs in the softer part of the 
stalk just inside the hard woody outer layer. One larva brought 
in on this day had already burrowed irregularly downward for 
about three inches from the place of its hatching. The following 
day two more eggs and another larva were found similarly placed. 
On the 22d of July one of these eggs had hatched and the larva 
from it had burrowed downward within the stem, and on the 23d 
two more eggs had hatched. Unfortunately no further progress was 
made with these specimens, both plant and larvae having died by 
August 20. 

July 22, three more larvae of this bill-bug were found at Ur- 
bana in the club-rush, and August 1 several more of various sizes, 
from those recently hatched to one four tenths of an inch in length. 
One egg was also found on this same day. Two of the larvae were 
in one stem. August 14, three more larvae were brought in, prac- 
tically full grown. One had burrowed completely through a small 
bulb of the club-rush, the channel through the bulb being contin- 
uous with that in the stalk. August 20, three other full-grown 
larvae were obtained from the same swampy field, and all had bur- 
rowed downward from the place of deposit of the egg to the bulb, 
a distance of about three inches, and had passed out of this into a 
bulb of last year's growth, in which they were imbedded at the 
time. The plant first attacked was killed in every case. Septem- 
ber 10 one of these bulbs was opened and a pupa found within, and 
on the 16th of September the pupal cavity contained an adult -S 1 . 
ochreus. On the 17th of September another beetle of this species 
was taken from a second of these bulbs. Three specimens were 
brought in August 28 in essentially the same condition as those 
collected August 20 ; that is, in each case, young larvae hatching 
from the egg had burrowed downward through three or four inches 
of the stem and to the young bulb at its base, and had passed from 
this into that of last year's growth, traversing a quarter of an inch 
or so of earth to reach the older bulb. 

Injuries in Whiteside, Adams, and Schuyler Counties. A 
case similar to the foregoing, also from a district recently 
drained, was reported to me June 25, 1895, by M. D. John, of the 
" Sterling Evening Gazette, " in Whiteside county. According to 
his statement whole fields of corn were almost completely destroyed 
in the vicinity of Deer Grove, sixteen miles south of Sterling, by 
the clay-colored bill-bug ( Sphenophorus ochreus, ) together with 
a black species of similar size, in all probability S. pertinax. These 
bill-bugs, he says, seem to be at home in the water as well as on 

448 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

land. Two or three thousand acres of corn along 1 Green River 
were reported to have been destroyed at this time, and most of the 
farmers were replanting so-called ninety-day corn, hoping- still to 
secure a crop. 

The next report of serious injury to corn by this species which 
has reached me came by letter dated May 24, 1901, from H. D. 
Hill, of Lima, Adams county, 111., who sent a specimen of this bee- 
tle with the statement that it was destroying- the young corn on his 
farm on bottom-lands which were originally overflowed, but which 
had been reclaimed and cultivated for about twelve years. 

Another letter of June 25, 1902, from Rushville, 111., written 
by H. E. McLaren, reports these beetles as present in the bottom- 
lands of a drainag-e district about the 24th of May, or as soon as 
the corn was large enoug-h to afford them food. They made their 
appearance, he says, in new ground the previous year, but were 
still more numerous and destructive in 1902 

Extraordinary Injury to Corn in Greene County. Under date 
of May 28, 1902, I received the following- letter from John C. Bridge- 
water, of Bridg-ewater, Greene county, 111. : 

"lam sending- you to-day about three hundred bugs which 
we call elephant bugs. We give them this name because of their 
color, the enormous size as compared with that of other pests in- 
this section, and the trunk or bill. Their destructiveness is un- 
paralleled, as you may judge for yourself when I say that farmers 
are paying five cents a dozen for them and the boys are bringing 
them in by the thousand. More than ten thousand have been 
captured and put to death in less than two days on the Hartwell 
ranch alone, the foreman paying five cents a dozen for every one of 
them On Saturday last he was looking over the ranch and thought 
that he had one eighty-acre field of corn secure, but on the Tues- 
day following there was not enough left to plow. 

" The bugs will lock their legs around a stalk of corn and run 
their trunk right through it as if it were a spike driven through a 
pine board. 

" It is costing us hundreds of dollars as tribute to bug-hunt- 
ing expeditions, plowing our land over and replanting where a 
week ago we had as good a stand as heart could wish: " 

Mr. Bridgewater also gives an amusing account of contests be- 
tween his " elephant bugs" and young chickens, and on this point 
his statements are corroborated by a letter from another corre- 
spondent received in June, 1900, and accompanied by a specimen. 
In both cases chickens had undertaken to devour these beetles, but 
the latter had saved themselves by clasping their legs around the 


beak of the bird, and holding- on so vigorously as to make it impos- 
sible for the chicken to open its mouth. 

The box of beetles accompanying- Mr. Bridgewater's letter 
were mainly S. ochrcus, although a few S. pertinax were among 
the lot.* 

In consequence of this letter I sent Mr. E. S. G. Titus to 
Bridgewater early in June to study the outbreak there, and ag-ain 
early in July. He spent the llth and 12th of June on theHartwell 
ranch, which is situated on the Illinois River at the mouth of Hur- 
ricane Creek, seven miles west of Roodhouse, in Greene county. 
This ranch contains five thousand acres, mostly bottom-lands re- 
deemed for cultivation by changing- the course of Hurricane Creek, 
building eleven miles of levee, and excavating drainage ditches. 
One of these ditches, twenty -five feet wide and six feet deep, drains 
a large bottom-land lake, the bed of which forms a considerable 
part of the property. About 4,500 acres of this tract had been 
broken up, much of it in the spring of 1902, and 2,500 acres were 
planted to corn this year. The 500 acres not under cultivation com- 
prise swamp-lands still unbroken, bluff-lands mainly covered with 
trees, an d the eleven miles of ditch which drains the ranch. 

Several hundred acres of the corn on this place were more or 
less infested, and in some of the fields the first planting was com- 
pletely ruined and the second also badly eaten. Plants attacked by 
S. ochreus were usually killed, the effect of the work of pertinax, 
a smaller species, being rather to dwarf and distort the growth 
than to kill the plant outright. 

On one ten-acre piece of corn which the manager wished 
especially to save, the beetles had been picked off by boys at a cost 
of from three to five cents a dozen, and 10,400 were brought in. In 
badly infested fields from one to five beetles were found on every 
stalk of corn. Careful search of several hundred plants failed to 
discover any eggs in the stalks or about the roots. 

An observation of special interest was made at this place with 
respect to the effect of fall plowing. Owing to a temporary lack 
of employment for the teams on this plantation a piece of sod had 
been broken up the preceding fall, the remainder of the tract lying 
unbroken until the following spring. On this fall-plowed land, 
which was merely a part of an undivided field, the only injured 
corn was in the first two or three rows adjoining the land plowed 
in spring, and the harm done here was evidently due to bill-bugs 
which had come in from the adjacent ground. 

*See also the discussion of S. pertinax in the present article. 

450 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

The commonest plant on the unplowed lands was the club- 
rush ( Sctrpus), and this often grows in considerable quantity on 
cultivated land that has been broken only a year. Eggs and young- 
larvae, evidently those of Sphenophorus ochreus, were found in the 
bulbs of* these rushes June 12, and the females were still heavy with 
fully developed eggs. 

July 3, when this place was visited again, larvae were still com- 
mon in the bulbs, owing- no doubt to continued hatching, and the 
average size was little if any greater than at the previous visit. 
Beetles also were still abundant,' and as much of the corn land was- 
now overflowed, owing to extraordinary high water in the Illinois 
River, most of the bill-bugs had been driven to the higher and 
drier ground. Many of them, however, were still on the rushes 
and on corn under water, apparently little disturbed by their sub- 

Such of the second planting of corn as had survived the bill- 
bug injury was in bad condition dwarfed and much deformed in 
growth. One field which had been planted the third time was al- 
ready practically destroyed, and the bill-bugs were still present on 
the corn. The crop on the field plowed in fall was in excellent 
condition, but considerable damage had been done in some fields 
which had been broken up from sod in the spring of 1901 and 
plowed for corn again this spring. Their condition was evidently 
due to insufficient cultivation last year, many rushes being left to 
grow with the crop. This of course kept the bill-bugs in the fields 
and enabled them to breed there last year. 

From the general condition of this region it is to be inferred 
that fall plowing for two successive years with clean cultivation 
of the crop will afford substantially complete protection against 
this bill-bug injury, except as the beetles from adjacent unbroken 
ground may occasionally enter a corn field in search of food. 

Summary of the Life History. Our earliest collections of this 
beetle were made on the 21st of May, at which time the sexes were 
seen in copulo. It has been taken by us in swamps and corn fields 
at many later dates up to July 27, although by the 17th of that 
month it had practically disappeared from the corn. 

Eggs were found by us June 11, but as young larvae were pres- 
ent at the same time oviposition must have begun as early as the 
first of June. Indeed, Webster has found the eggs in Indiana late 
in May.* Other eggs have occurred in the course of our work, 
either in the field or in breeding experiments, July 4, 16, 17, 22, 23, 

* Webster, F. M. ( 1890. 


and 30, and also August 1, thus covering- an interval of about two 

The growth of the larvae seems to be rather slow, none of those 
observed by us having reached full size before the 20th of July. 
Other examples of the larval stage were found at intervals to Au- 
gust 28; and in Webster's experiments, to August 30.* 

Pupae were taken from our breeding-cages September 10; and 
in Webster's observations, from August 21 to 30. Images from our 
September pupae were observed September 16 and 17, and as our ex- 
perimental work was done in the open air, the plants being protect- 
ed only by wire screens, no acceleration of the transformations 
could have taken place. Webster ('90) found adults, to- 
gether with larvae and pupae, from August 21 to 30. Our 
collections contain no specimens of this species taken later in the 
year, but as no search of suitable situations has been made in lo- 
calities where this bill-bug is abundant this negative evidence 
has no special value. It seems probable that the species is 
single-brooded, with a long breeding period extending through 
about four months, and that hibernation occurs mainly, if not alto- 
gether, in the imago stage. There is, however, nothing definite 
to show that the beetles emerge from their underground quarters 
before the spring of the following year. As other species of bill- 
bugs more abundant in ordinary situations but having apparently 
a similar life history do occur abroad in fall, it is likely that Sphe- 
nophorus ochreus will be found to have a similar habit. 

Descriptive Notes. A description of what was doubtless the 
full-grown larva of Sphenophorus ochreus was published by me in 
the Sixteenth Report of this office, page 56, but some descriptive 
notes made from a living half-grown specimen July 15 may assist 
in identification. 

Length, extended in crawling, 6mm. Head light mahogany- 
color, with mouth parts dark brown, almost black. First segment 
behind the head tinged with brown, deepest in the middle. Body 
thickest just back of the middle, and sloping somewhat abruptly 
to the tip of the abdomen, which is provided with a circlet of weak 
brownish bristles; the two preceding segments with similar but 
weaker bristles. Lateral folds, extending from the head to the tip 
of the abdomen, are quite distinct. The color of the skin is dirty 
white, and sufficiently 'translucent to show the brownish internal 

The egg of Sphenophorus ochreus is 3 mm. long and about half 

* Webster, F. M., 1890. 

45 2 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

as wide, swelling- somewhat after it is laid. It is at first decidedly 
curved, but later assumes an oval form. Color opaque white, with a 
faint creamy tinge. Shell transparent, shining 1 , smooth. 


This beetle is evidently a lowland or swamp species in great 
part, often breeding 1 , like the clay-colored bill-bug 1 , in the stems 
and bulbous roots of coarse semiaquatic vegetation. Dr. Kellicott 
reared it repeatedly to the imago several years ago in July and 
August from larvae and pupge found in New York in the common 
cat-tail flag 1 , Typha lati folia. " The larva cuts an oblique burrow 
near the base of the plant, and pupates in the same.*" Dr. John 
Hamilton has found it common in the salt marshes of New Jersey, 
and believes that it breeds in grasses daily wet by the tide. 

In Illinois it has been most frequently collected in swampy re- 
gions or along the borders of lakes, and in corn fields has been 
most abundant on lands recently drained, associated there with the 
clay-colored bill-bug 1 . Our Illinois collections were all made in the 
central and northern parts of the state, aud range from April to 
August of several years. 

The injury to corn is similar to that of the clay- colored species, 
but less severe owing to the smaller size of the beetle. The plant 
injured \>y pertinax v$> less frequently killed outright, but is com- 
monly dwarfed, often becomes badly twisted as it grows, and rarely 
forms an ear. The beetle attacks the corn plant at the crown be- 
low the surface, and is usually nearly or quite buried in the earth. 
At Bridgewater. 111., in 1902 it was about as common on corn as 
the larger species, but was frequently overlooked because partially 
concealed by its tnode of feeding. In swamps it has been found on 
young rushes just beneath the surface, making holes in the ground 
like minute gopher holes to get at its food. 

Parrott ('99) reports it as destructive to corn in Nebraska, the 
injured stalks failing to produce ears. The beetles were still at 
work on the corn plant July 27, and when not eating were to be 
found in underground burrows. In this article, published in the 
"Kansas Farmer" for May 11, 1899, he says that the eggs of per- 
tinax were deposited June 24 to 26 in burrows about an inch under 
ground and touching the roots of the corn, and that these eggs 
were hatching July 18. His experiments satisfied him that it 
thrives equally well in a blue-grass sod. He assumes that it hiber- 
nates in the pupa, the evidence on that point being the receipt of 

* Letter, December 3, 1888. 


specimens early in May, 1898, some of which had the peculiar 
pinkish color characteristic of beetles just from the pupa.* 

The life history of this species seems thus not to differ materi- 
ally from those of the others treated in this paper, although our 
data are too scanty for satisfactory generalization. Parrott's 
statement with regard to the breeding- of the species in corn, based 
as it seems to be on experimental data, is of special interest, since 
we have no other observation of a northern species laying its eggs 
on the corn plant. It will be noticed that in this case the beetles 
were under confinement, and that no positive inference can be 
made as to their choice of plants for breeding in the field. 


This bill-bug, though not common in our collections, has been 
taken by us in central and southern Illinois from Pekin to Cairo. 
It is primarily a southern species, abundant in the Gulf States 
and injurious to corn in South Carolina. Through the kindness of 
Mr. B. F. Johnson, of Champaign, I received in June, 1888, fifty liv- 
ing specimens of it from that state, with the information that it was 
there very destructive to young corn. Some of these beetles laid 
eggs in captivity June 4. 

In Illinois it has been taken but once on corn so far as I am 
aware. May 1, 1891, Mr. John Marten, an assistant in my office, 
found a specimen of it in Urbana at the base of a very young 
plant, where it had gnawed a cavity in the stalk just below the 
surface of the ground, and kept over night in a breeding-cage it 
left the stalk and made its way into the seed kernel. 

The imago has been found by us at various dates from April 
23 to September 16. Theearliest specimens, collected at Cham- 
paign April 23, 1892, were under boards and driftwood on wet 
ground. May 1, 1891, a single beetle was taken on very young 
corn at Urbana ; June 30, 1888, it was obtained from a deposit of 
driftwood beside a creek ; and July 9 of the same year, from a sim- 
ilar situation after a flooding rain. July 26, 1892, it was brought 
in from Savanna, in northern Illinois, among collections made in 
the Mississippi bottom ; and August 16, 1891, it was found on the 
bank of the Ohio River near Metropolis. On the 23d of August, 
1899, a number of these beetles, recently transformed, were found 
at Urbana, still in their underground pupal cells at the base of 
stalks of Cyperus strigosus ; and, finally, September 16, }879, it was 

*Letter of July 29, 1902. 

454 BULLETIN NO. 79. [ September, 

obtained in the course of general entomological collecting- from the 
bottoms of the Ohio River opposite Cairo, 111. It seems thus to be 
essentially a lowland species, and probably breeds, like S. ochreus, 
in coarse grasses and similar vegetation of swamps and bottom- 

My knowledge of the life history of the species is based main- 
ly on Mr. Marten's observations in 1889. On the 25th of July, 
1889, four larvae which proved to be those of this species were 
found in the stems of a large sedge (Cyperus strigosus} growing in 
a corn field near Champaign. The larvae were just at the crown of 
the bulb, which they had almost completely excavated, the largest 
of them having, in fact, entirely cut off the stem, and lying in a 
cavity formed by the bases of the leaf sheaths. 

On the 29th of July ethers were found in the same situation 
apparently very nearly full grown, together with some quite young 
which were just commencing to burrow the stalks. No evidence 
could be found that they passed from one stalk to another, but each 
apparently got its growth within a single plant. August 8 nearly 
all the larvae in this field were about full grown, but no pupae were 
detected; and eight days later all had apparently gained their 
growth, but again no pupae were found. In several plants empty 
excavations were seen, and August 20 pupae were detected at the 
base of the stem and in the small root bulb. They were too large 
for the larval cavity, which had been opened out by eating away 
one side, the pupal cell being completed by gnawed chips and ex- 
crement closely packed. On August 23d larvae of various ages, 
together with pupae and adults of this beetle still in their pupal cells, 
were brought in by Mr. Marten from stalks of C strigosus in this 
same field. Sometimes the pupal cells were found among the fi- 
brous roots of the plant quite outside the cavity formed by the lar- 
va in the stem, the walls of the cell being then formed of compact 
earth often intermingled with chips from the stem. On the 26th 
of August larvae of all ages were obtained, some of them scarcely 
twice as large as when first hatched, and others fully prepared for 
pupation. Pupae and adults were likewise found, the latter still in 
their underground cells which, in some cases, were still contained 
within the stem of the sedge, the fragments of the plant having 
been tightly packed tcgether to make a compact case, so smooth 
within as to suggest that it had been lined by a larval secretion. 

September 6, half-grown and full-sized larvae, together with 
pupae in various stages of advancement were still to be found, and 
also eggs, apparently of this beetle, placed in the lower part of the 
outer sheath or inserted into that and the second leaf also. 


Small round holes were seen in the ground from which adults had 
apparently emerged. 

From these observations it is to be inferred that the breeding- 
period of this species is very long, the eggs being 1 laid at intervals 
through many weeks. The largest larva noticed July 25 could not 
have hatched from the egg later than the middle of that month, 
and the very young of August 26 could have been at most but 
a few days old. Pupation and the formation of the adult by Au- 
gust 23 and the subsequent disappearance of images from the 
ground, together with their occurrence in the field as late as Sep- 
tember 16, warrant us in assuming the hibernation of the imago, 
although it is of course possible that some observed as larvae may 
have hibernated in the pupa stage. There is no evidence in these 
data for more than a single generation of this species in our lati- 

Description of Larva. Head pale yellowish brown, darkened 
toward mouth parts, mandibles black, other mouth parts brown, 
body white except cervical shield, which is slightly embrowned, 
paler than head ; spiracles pale brown, first very large, remaining 
eight small but gradually larger from before backward, the last, 
however, about twice as wide as preceding ; sutural grooves very 
distinct below, where they are cut at the sides by about five or 
six longitudinal grooves, becoming fainter downwards. Several 
long soft hairs on head and inferior thoracic region, and some 
shorter, stouter ones at tip of abdomen ; elsewhere, body nearly or 
quite naked. Form of body short and thick, gradually swollen 
posteriorly, segments 7-9 being thickest ; anal segment with quad- 
rate excavation above, between the last two spiracles. Tubercles 
beneath thorax broad, low, shining, not especially hairy. 

Clypeus membranous ; labrum obtusely angled in front, with 
two spines on the surface at about middle of antero-posterior 
diameter, about equally distant from each other and from the mar- 
gins ; two similar spines at front angles, and two other marginal 
ones a short distance within. Two of the inferior spines near the 
middle of the margin are furcate. Labium largely membranous, 
palpi two-jointed, basal segment a little longer than wide, terminal 
one slightly oval, about half as wide as the other. Ligula membra- 
nous, densely hairy in front, basal part of maxillae bisinuate without, 
bearing two long hairs, one near palpus, the other at basal third ; 
palpus two-jointed, basal joint broader than long, second small, 
ovate, half as wide as preceding ; lobe of maxillae semi-oval, with 
about ten dagger-like and furcate spines on terminal edge. Man- 

456 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

dibles triangular, almost equilateral, acute and slightly hooked at 
tip, biting 1 edge with a single triangular median tooth. 

Length of larva, 15 mm. ; greatest depth, 5 mm. ; greatest 
width, 5 mm. 


Sphenophorus scoparius Horn, found by us but rarely on corn 
and grass, has occurred in our collections from June 16 to July 7, 
and from northern to central Illinois. 

Sphenophorus sculptilis Uhler, described as ze<z in 1867 because 
of its injuries to corn, has been surprisingly rare in our collections, 
and has never been taken by us from the corn plant in Illinois. 
June 7, 1884, specimens were found on blades and heads of timothy 
at Du Quoin, in southern Illinois, and July 9, 1888, a single one 
was taken in a flood collection on the bank of a small creek at Ur- 
bana. It has appeared in our general collections from Chicago to 
Villa Ridge in extreme southern Illinois, and on various dates from 
June 7 to November 26. It is, however, doubtless locally destruc- 
tive to corn in this state since it has been reported by entomologists 
as injurious to that crop in Massachusetts, New York, New 
Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, 
Florida, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Arkan- 
sas, Iowa, and Kansas. 

In most cases where definite statements have been made con- 
cerning its injuries the fact has been noted that the injured crop 
was growing on timothy sod. 

The larvae and pupae have been seen by Hopkins, ( W. Va. ), 
who calls this species the timothy bill-bug, and thinks that it is one 
of the prime causes of the early failure of meadows. He finds the 
larva from June to September, and pupae and adults from August 
to October. In these points of its life history it apparently agrees 
very well with Sphenophorus parv ulus. 

Sphenophorus robustus Horn occurs in our collections but six 
times, and in but two of these with a date, one in June and the 
other July 1. Although an abundant and destructive species in 
the Southern States and ranging with us to extreme northern Illi- 
nois, it is apparently too rare in this state to have any economic 



WEBSTER, F. M. Life History of one of the Bill-bugs, Sphenophorus ochreus 

Lee. (Insect Life, Nov. 1889, Vol. 2, p, 132.) 

Quotes statement of Forbes in 1888 (see 'go) concerning injuries to young corn 
on newly drained swamp lands. Believes serious injury in several situations has 
been done for several years jn Indiana, hundreds of acres being thus destroyed. 
Beetles hibernate as adults, coming forth in spring, feeding on inner parts of 
stems of reeds, rushes, and young corn. Eggs laid in or about roots of Scirpus 
late in May and early in June. Larvae live within the bulbous roots, and beetles 
appear in August and September. Has reared adults from the egg in Scirpus 
bulbs kept in dry earth from the middle of June until the 25th of August. Infers 
that larvae cannot be starved by midsummer plowing. 


FORBES, S. A. The Corn Bill-bugs (Sphenophorus sp.). ( i6th Rep. State Ent. 
111., for the Years 1887 and 1888, pp. 58-74. ) 

Contains an analysis of literature concerning each of the species of the genus, 
with description of the genus Sphenophorus and an analytical key to Illinois 
species ; the original description of S. minimus ; a description of the larvae of 
ochreus and parvulus ; and an account of the life histories of species so far as 
known, of their injuries to corn and other vegetation, of their natural enemies, 
and of preventive and remedial measures. It is followed by an economic bibliog- 
raphy of sixty-one titles, ranging from 1808 to 1888. The paper is illustrated by 
twenty heliotype figures of images on three plates. 

WEBSTER, F. M. Notes upon some Insects Affecting Corn . (Insect Life, 
Nov. 1850, Vol. 3, p. 159. ) 

Reports finding of eggs of Sphenophorus ochreus in stems of Scirpus, which 
eggs resemble those obtained from ovaries of females. Concludes that eggs may 
be deposited in stems of the plant and not always in the root. 

SMITH, J. B. Notes of the Year in New Jersey. ( Insect Life, Oct. 1891, Vol. 

4, P- 44- ) 

Reports appearance of corn bill-bug, Sphenophorus sculptilis, in large num- 
bers in three New Jersey counties. Destroyed many acres of corn by drilling 
holes in young plants at or near the surface of the ground. The second crop, 
replanted after short delay, was undisturbed. The beetles were most numerous 
on old sod, but not confined to such land. 

MCCARTHY, GERALD. Some Injurious Insects. ( Bull. 78, N. C. Agr. Exper. 

Station, p. 18. ) 

Paragraph on troublesome bill-bug or corn curculio, Sphenophorus ze<e. 
Says mature bug bites into young plants near the ground and deposits its eggs in 
the place bitten, the eggs soon hatching into grubs which burrow into the pith,' 
dwarfing the plant or killing it outright. Characterizes this species as a semi- 
aquatic insect, and seldom troublesome except upon very wet land. Advises 
hand-picking, drainage, and thorough cleaning of the fields in fall. 

458 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

OSBORN, HERBERT, and GOSSARD, H. A. - Corn Bill-bugs. (Bull. Iowa Agr. 

Exper. Station, Aug. 1892, No. 18, pp. 507-509.) 

Describes injuries to corn and other crops by the clay-colored bill-bugi 
Sphenophorus ochreus, and the little brown bill-bug, S. parvulus. Quotes from 
Webster ( '89 ) and copies his figures of S. ochreus. Also quotes from Forbes ( '90 ) 
with respect to failure of beetles to breed in corn. Advises that bulbous roots of 
shrubs on recently drained land be examined, and that if larvae of S. ochreus are 
found the ground be broken as early in summer as possible, preferably 
before June i. Quotes Webster's statement ( '89 ) concerning early plowing. Re- 
gards 6". parvulus as likely to become a much more permanent and serious pest 
than the preceding. Quotes life history from Forbes ( '90) and summarizes facts 
concerning injury to wheat and rye from Webster ( '92). Says losses to corn due 
to this species are often serious, and quotes letter giving description of injuries 
to field of corn near Massena, Iowa, 1892. Damaged crop was planted on old 
timothy sod broken up in March. First planting taken almost entirely; second 
planting, finished June 17, seriously injured, but not entirely destroyed. Osborn 
concludes that the bill-bug had developed in the timothy or perhaps in other 
grasses near the affected fields. Probably in most cases found largely in the im- 
mediate locality where issuing. Regards outlook for preventive measures as by 
no means encouraging. Suggests, however, that since worse injuries are likely 
to occur on land previously in grass or adjacent to such land plowing should be 
done as early in the previous season as possible, and that such ground should be 
planted late and rather heavy at first. Crop of sod corn might be raised by break- 
ing ground first of June and planting at once. 

OSBORN, HERBERT. Notes on Injurious Insects of 1892. ( Insect Life, Nov- 

1892, Vol. 5, p. 112.) 

Bill-bugs have for the first time caused serious injury in Iowa, Sphenophorus 
parvuhis being the most wide-spread and destructive. Seems to have increased 
rapidly in late years, and threatens to become a very serious pest. S. ochreus 
often seen, but not likely to cause extensive damage in Iowa because of compara- 
tive scarcity of swampy land bearing rushes. 

BECKWITH, M. H. The Corn Bill-bug, Sphenophorus sculptilis. (5th Ann. 
Rep. Del. Coll. Agr. Exper. Station, p. 102.) 

Describes injuries to corn. Says life history is not known. Supposes that 
eggs are deposited among the roots of timothy grass, and that the larva feeds up- 
on such roots. Describes injury to cornfield in Delaware observed May 20, corn 
being about three inches high. Experiments with London purple applied to corn, 
and with poisoned bunches of clover placed between the rows produced no ap- 
parent result. Cultivation of corn began May 24, and this seemed to arrest in- 
jury June I. Scarcely any beetles could be found in corn fields, although con- 
siderable numbers were seen among the roots of timothy on a field adjoining. Be- 
lieves that beetles may be driven out of field by cultivation. 

WEBSTER, F. M. Insects which Burrow in the Stems of Wheat. ( Bull. 40, 
Ohio Agr. Exper. Station, p. 72. ) 

Brief article on Sphenophorus par-vulus, here called the grain Sphenophorus. 
Speaks of it as doing a little injury in the larval state to wheat, oats, and barley, 
also having eaten the bulbous roots of timothy, and puncturing the young roots of 
corn. Says female lays eggs in or a little above the roots, probably late in May 
or in June, but oviposition had been observed as late as July I. Larva feeds with- 


in straw until it becomes too large for its burrow, and then passes to the roots' 
often destroying a whole stool of the grain in this way. Pupates beside the roots, 
and after two or three weeks transforms to the adult. Has reared these beetles 
from wheat stubble in August. 

BRUNER, LAWRENCE. Report on Nebraska Insects. (Bull. 22, U. S. Div. 
Em., p. 99.) 

Discusses Sphenophorus parvulus, under the name of the blue-grass weevil. 
Says it has been increasing quite rapidly in numbers, and is one of the commonest 
beetles in the city of Lincoln, Neb. Feeds on roots of common blue-grass, and in 
some lawns has killed large patches of sod. Beetles appear in early fall and 
spring. Thinks the insect is probably double brooded, but says that some of the 
beetles may come out in fall while the remainder may lie overthe winteras pupae. 
Found fully mature larvae early in June and others in October. Damp and well- 
watered lawns infested as badly as those that are dry, although they do not show 
the injury so quickly. 

SMITH, J. B. Report of the Entomologist. ( I2th Ann. Rep. N. J. Agr. Exper- 

Station, for the Year 1891, pp. 394-395.) 

Gives report of correspondents concerning injuries to corn. One says " Very 
much worse where there is wire-grass or quack-grass. " Another says that he hears 
much complaint of them, confined principally to old mowing-lands. Another 
says the beetle is commonly known as the timothy bug, as it only seems to be 
bad after an old timothy sod is turned down ; and still another reports it 
as sometimes very destructive to young corn when planted on timothy sod plowed 
in spring or late winter. Said also to be very injurious in Chester county, Pa. 
Injuries reported from May 25 to June 17. Smith says nothing is positively 
known concerning early stages. Reason to believe that larva lives in timothy 
sod. Found no eggs in punctured corn plants. Mentions use of arsenical poi- 
sons and kerosene, but is skeptical as to their value. Thinks it poor policy to re- 
plant only hills killed by the beetles, because these would be killed in turn. 
Recommends plowing sod for corn in fall and early winter with a view to killing 
out the insects living in or under the sod. 


SMITH, J. B. Report of the Entomologist. ( I3th Ann. Rep. N. J. Agr. Ex- 
per. Station, for the Year 1892, p. 390. ) 

Mentions corn bill-bug as again troublesome in some counties, frequently 
necessitating the replanting of corn. Injury minimized when fall plowing has 
been practiced. Period of injury short ; replantings generally unharmed. 
WEBSTER, F. M. ( Ohio Farmer, July 20, 1893, Vol.84, p. 57.) 

Reports on larva of a Sphenophorus sent him by a correspondent who found 
it in a root of growing wheat. Probably S. parvulus. Describes injuries by this 
insect to wheat and corn. Says field of corn near Jefferson, Ohio, was seriously 
injured by it in 1893, and refers to other corn-eating species. Says that in wheat 
fields the eggs, which he figures, are deposited just above the roots, but that the 
young, after hatching, works its way upward ; and that as it gets larger it crawls 
down and eats its way out of the straw, finishing its growth among the roots. Oft- 
en eats the underground portion of a whole stool, causing it to wither and die 
before the kernels have filled. Mentions occurrence in timothy, and says that 
injuries to corn are usually local and not frequent. Surmises that fall plowing 
would probably result in the diminution or prevention of the trouble, and sug- 

400 BULLETIN NO. 79. [October, 

gests planting some other crop than corn where the occurrence of this injury is 
very probable. In Indiana, rye is used in this connection to advantage. 

OSBORN, HERBERT. Corn Insects, their Injuries, and how to treat them 

( Bull. Iowa Agr. Exper. Station, No. 24, p. 997. ) 

Says clay-colored bill-bug, Sphenophums ochreits, sometimes causes consider- 
able injury to corn. Refers briefly to this species and to S.parvulus, discussed in 
previous bulletins, and mentions also S. sculptilis, which sometimes becomes nu- 
merous enough to eat the whole stool to the root. Refers to suggestion that sand 
saturated with kerosene be placed around each hill. Regards it as of doubtful 
value. Advises killing corn with kerosene if necessary to destroy the beetles, re- 
planting afterwards, thus arresting their increase. 

WEED, HOWARD EVARTS. Insects Injurious to Corn. ( Bull. Miss. Agr. Exper. 

Station, Nov. 1895, No - 35> P- I 54-) 

Brief note on corn bill-bugs, with copied figures. Recommends hand-pick- 
ing when beetles occur in small numbers, and spraying with Paris green when on 
the base of the stalk if they are numerous. Says second planting of corn will be 
but little if at all attacked, and that when sod has been broken up in fall, the 
beetles will do but little damage the following spring. 

HOPKINS, A. D. Some Notes on Observations in West Virginia. (Bull. 17, U. S. 

Div. Ent., p. 45. ) 

Refers to Sphenophorus sculptilis as the timothy bill-bug, and ascribes to it 
considerable injury to timothy plants during past three or four years. Thinks it 
is one of the prime causes of early failure of meadows. Believes permanent in- 
jury can be largely prevented by liberal applications of stable manure, tobacco 
dust, lime, or other suitable fertilizer to the sod immediately after hay harvest. 
Larvae of this species occur in June to September, and the pupae and adults in 
August to October. 


PARROT, PERCY J. Bill-bugs on Corn. ( Kansas Farmer, May n, 1809, p. 314. ) 
Reports Sphenophorus pertinax as injurious to corn in Nebraska. Experi- 
ments show that it thrives equally well in blue-grass sod. Injured corn often 
fails to produce ears. Experiments with kerosene are mainly unsuccessful. Ad- 
vises destruction of infested canes if larvae are found in the field, rooting up 
and burning over corn stubble in fall to destroy pupae, and cultivation of swamp 
tracts to destroy beetles. Reports deposit of eggs June 14 to 26 in the bur- 
rows of beetles about one inch below the surface of the ground and touching 
the corn. Eggs hatching July 18; beetles still at work July 27. When not eating ) 
the beetles were to be found in burrows underground, either at the base of the 
corn or elsewhere. 

LUGGER, OTTO. Beetles ( Coleoptera ) Injurious to our Fruit-producing Plants. 

( Bull. Univ. Minn. Agr. Exper. Station, Dec. 1809, ^ T - 66, pp. 269 and 301. ) 

Incidental mention of S.parvulus as very numerous in the roots of grasses 

several years previous in Druid Hill Park, Baltimore, Md. Expelled from sod by 

application of malodorous manure followed by heavy rain. "The next day im- 


mense numbers of beetles ( S. parvulus Gyll.) could be seen upon all the side- 
walks and seats on and about the lawn; they were evidently driven out of the 
ground by this offensive manure." Quotes Professor Smith concerning injury to 
corn by bill-bugs. Corn so injured called " Frenchy " in eastern Maryland and in 

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