Beetles, birds, general natural history. Britain, Ireland and abroad.


Curculionoidea (weevils)

The 11 families of the superfamily Curculionoidea mostly look like weevils, with a rostrum (or snout). The bark-beetles (Curculionidae: Scolytinae) and the pinhole-borers (Platypodidae) look quite different but their cylindrical body-form is adapted to tunnelling in wood; I have given them a webpage of their own here.

Tychius quinquepunctatus

With about 628 British and Irish species, Curculionoidea is one of the biggest groups of beetles. For a good few years, I had pretty much ‘no idea’ about the Curculionoidea but Mike Morris is the man who’s changed that. To identify British and Irish weevils, you need to get hold of the five RES Handbooks that Mike has produced.

Morris, M.G. (1990). Orthocerous weevils. Coleoptera: Curculionoidea (Nemonychidae, Anthribidae, Urodontidae, Attelabidae and Apionidae). Handbooks for the identification of British insects, vol. 5, part 16. London: Royal Entomological Society. Nearly out of print – only damaged stock available.

  • my copy is extensively annotated, especially the Apionidae keys, which form the major part of the handbook.
  • Four species have been added to the British list since the keys were published:
  • Helianthemapion aciculare (on Common Rock-rose) (Fowles and Morris, 1994)
  • Ixapion variegatum (on Mistletoe) (Foster et al., 2001)
  • Rhopalapion longirostre (on Hollyhocks) (Jones, 2006)
  • Pseudoperapion brevirostre (on Perforate St-John’s-wort) (Hodge, 2011).
  • See also: Morris, M.G. (1993). ‘British orthocerous weevils’: corrections and new information (Coleoptera, Curculionoidea). Entomologist’s monthly magazine, 129, 23 – 29.

Morris, M.G. (1997). Broad-nosed weevils. Coleoptera: Curculionidae (Entiminae). Handbooks for the identification of British insects, vol. 5, part 17a. London: Royal Entomological Society. Available to purchase here.

  • There is a mistake in the Key to Tribes (p. 9): Barynotus (Brachyderini) has been omitted from the key and cannot be keyed out.
  • I have found Sitona particularly difficult to identify using this handbook, which is a shame as they are one of the most frequently encountered genera of broad-nosed weevils. Kevan (1959) is a very useful additional key to Sitona.
  • The following species have been added to the British list since the keys were published:
  • Pachyrhinus lethierrhyi (on Chamaecyparis, Cupressus, Thuja, Juniperus, etc.) (Plant et al., 2006)
  • Pachyrhinus mustela (on Pinus nigra) (Denton, 2005)
  • Brachyderes incanus (on Pinus nigra) (Denton, 2005)
  • Brachyderes lusitanicus (exhibited by Max Barclay at the BENHS Annual Exhibition in 2006)
  • Otiorhynchus armadillo (Barclay, 2003)
  • Otiorhynchus salicicola (Barclay, 2003)
  • Otiorhynchus cribricollis (Harrison, 2008)
  • Otiorhynchus uncinatus (Heal, 2013)
  • Charagmus gressorius (Cunningham, 2012)
  • There has been an important update to the Trachyphloeini (affecting genera Trachyphloeus and Cathormiocerus) (Morris, 2011).

Morris, M.G. (2002). True weevils (part I). Coleoptera: Curculionidae (subfamilies Raymondionyminae to Smicronychinae). Handbooks for the identification of British insects, vol. 5, part 17b. London: Royal Entomological Society. Available to purchase here.

  • Hyperinae were accidentally omitted from the key to subfamilies. See Morris (2003) for a corrected key.
  • Cotaster uncipes was added by Hammond (2008) from woodland leaf litter
  • Allopentarthrum elumbe was added to the British list by Turner (2011) as Pentarthrum elumbe from the Humid Tropics Biome of the Eden Project.
  • Conarthrus praeustus was added by Allen and Turner (2012) from the Eden Project.

Morris, M.G. (2008). True weevils (part II) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Ceutorhynchinae). Handbooks for the identification of British insects, vol. 5, part 17c. St Albans: Royal Entomological Society. Available to purchase here.

  • Page 56, the conservation status of Glocianus moelleri is RDBK (revised from RDB3), not RDB3 as stated.
  • Page 81, key to genera of Phytobiini, couplet 1. Rhinoncus are not always “without a tooth on each side of the middle” of the pronotum.

Morris, M.G. (2012). True weevils (part III) (Coleoptera: Curculioninae, Baridinae, Orobitidinae) . Handbooks for the identification of British insects. St Albans: Royal Entomological Society. Available to purchase here.

  • Morris (2013) gives “errors, corrections and amplifications” to accompany True Weevils III and is essential reading, especially for anyone attempting to use the key to groups of all Curculionoidea. Here’s a brief summary:
  • Page 2, couplet 4 has failed to take into account two species (Stenopelmus rufinasus and Rhinocyllus conicus) with atypically short and broad rostra that belong to the Phanerognatha but will key out erroneously as Entiminae.
  • Page 6, couplet 26 relies on deciding whether the fore-tibia is with or without a mucro. But Morris (2013) warns that the difficulties of distinguishing between a mucro and an uncus make this an unsatisfactory couplet. Actually, the situation is worse than that and trying to progress beyond couplet 26 may be a waste of time for many specimens. Firstly as Andrew Duff has pointed out, the two branches of couplet 26 merge again at couplet 30, and while this isn’t necessarily erroneous, I can’t see any other sensible explanation. I don’t trust the key past couplet 26 and it may actually be impossible to key out any of the species between couplets 35 and the end (couplet 40) without contradicting your choices at couplet 27 (metathoracic epimera visible from above) and couplet 34 (metathoracic epimera not visible from above), as pointed out by Simon Horsnall.
  • See Morris (2013) for other errors of figure numbering, etc.
  • Not mentioned in Morris (2013): p. 39, couplet 5, the fore femur of Anthonomus rufus is shown in fig. 76 not fig. 75. But then based on the illustrations, any difference in the size of teeth on fore femora between rufus, pedicularius and conspersus is tiny – there must be some mistake. The figures on p. 37 show fore-legs of: 75 bituberculatus; 76 rufus; 77 pedicularius; 78 conspersus; 79 piri.
  • One additional species has already been discovered: Bradybatus fallax. Roger Booth found one resting on his car roof in Merton Park, Surrey on 13 August 2011. It is associated with Sycamore and other Acer species. I found one by beating trees, including sycamore, in Middlesex on 9 May 2013. It can be identified using Die Rüsselkäfer Baden-Württembergs (see below).

Bradybatus fallax: perhaps only the second British specimen?

I really appreciate all the effort that Mike has put in to these Handbooks and he deserves nothing but praise. But I will give the advice that I wish I’d been given when I first started trying to use the keys:

  • Have a dictionary handy and be prepared to expand your vocabulary. The keys use some precise technical terms which I had not previously encountered, e.g. “gibbous”.
  • Beware of the numbering. The keys do not consistently follow the standard nested cascade structure but are often tangled.
  • In most beetle keys, the best character will be given first, and other characters will be given in descending order of usefulness until enough characters have been given to ensure an accurate decision. However, most of the weevil couplets contain several characters: you don’t necessarily need to evaluate all of them, and the best characters are not always the first.

It is in the nature of weevils that many of the identification characters are comparative. Even though Mike’s gone to a great deal of effort in his keys to give measurements and plenty of illustrations, it’s still a lot easier to identify weevils when you’ve got a reasonably comprehensive reference collection to work with. So if you are just starting out on weevils, I would say that the following book is essential if only for the photographs – leafing through the 82 plates is like looking through a museum collection. Currently available from amazon for £41.57 – good value for a 944-page hardback book with loads of colour photos.

Rheinheimer, J. and Hassler, M. (2010). Die Rüsselkäfer Baden-Württembergs. Heidelberg: verlag regionalkultur. [In German]

Of course, the other important thing to say about weevils is that they feed on plants or plant materials (wood, seeds). To really get to know the weevils, you’ve got to get at least a basic grasp of botanical identification. But weevils are well worth the effort – a really rewarding group if not slightly addictive. Fear no weevil!


Allen, A.J. and Turner, C.R. (2012). Conarthrus praeustus (Boheman in Schönherr, 1838) (Curculionidae: Cossoninae) in Britain. The Coleopterist, 21, 21 – 23.

Barclay, M.V.L. (2003). Otiorhynchus (s. str.) armadillo (Rossi, 1792) and Otiorhynchus (s. str.) salicicola Heyden, 1908 (Curculionidae: Entiminae: Otiorhynchini) – two European vine weevils established in Britain. The Coleopterist, 12, 41 – 56.

Cunningham, A. (2012). Charagmus gressorius (Fabricius, 1792) (Curculionidae) in Devon – new to Britain. The Coleopterist, 21, 77 – 78.

Denton, J. (2005). Brachyderes incanus (Linnaeus) and Pachyrhinus mustela (Herbst) (Curculionidae) in Surrey – new to Britain. The Coleopterist, 14, 1 – 5.

Fowles, A.P. and Morris, M.G. (1994). Apion (Helianthemapion) aciculare Germar (Col., Apionidae), a weevil new to Britain. Entomologist’s monthly magazine, 130, 177 – 181.

Foster, A.P., Morris, M.G. and Whitehead, P.F. (2001). Ixapion variegatum (Wencker, 1864) (Col., Apionidae) new to the British Isles, with observations on its European and conservation status. Entomologist’s monthly magazine, 137, 95 – 105.

Hammond, P.M. (2008). Cotaster uncipes (Boheman, 1838) (Curculionidae) apparently established in Britain. The Coleopterist, 17, 43 – 46.

Harrison, T. (2008). Otiorhynchus cribricollis Gyllenhal (Curculionidae) new to Britain. The Coleopterist, 17, 141 – 143.

Heal, N.F. (2013). Otiorhynchus uncinatus Germar (Curculionidae) new to Britain, from Kent. The Coleopterist, 22, 67.

Hodge, P.J. (2011). Pseudoperapion brevirostre (Herbst, 1797) (Apionidae) new to the British Isles. The Coleopterist, 20, 111 – 115.

Jones, R.A. (2006). Rhopalapion longirostre (Olivier, 1807) (Apionidae) finally discovered in Britain. The Coleopterist, 15, 93 – 97.

Kevan, D.K. (1959). The  British species of the genus Sitona Gemar (Col., Curculionidae). Entomologist’s monthly magazine, 95, 251 – 261.

Morris, M.G. (2003). The identification of Hyperinae (Curculionidae). The Coleopterist, 12, 85 – 87.

Morris, M.G. (2011). Taxonomic and nomenclatural changes in the British Trachyphloeini (Curculionidae, Entiminae). The Coleopterist, 20, 77 – 81.

Morris, M.G. (2013). ‘True Weevils (Part III)’: errors, corrections and amplifications. The Coleopterist, 22, 65 – 66.

Plant, C.W., Morris, M.G. and Heal, N.F. (2006). Pachyrhinus lethierryi (Desbrochers, 1875) (Curculionidae) new to Britain and evidently established in south-east England. The Coleopterist, 15, 59 – 65.

Turner, C.R. (2011). Pentarthrum elumbe (Boheman) (Curculionidae, Cossoninae) in Britain. The Coleopterist, 20, 20 – 22.


23 Responses “Curculionoidea (weevils)”

  1. Kit Sullivan says:

    Hi Mark,
    Does Morris’s first handbook give a key to all genera or is it keyed out only to subfamilies for those not represented in the ‘Orthocerous weevils’?

  2. markgtelfer says:

    Kit, Morris (1990) includes a key to the families within Curculionoidea but doesn’t get you any further with any of the non-orthocerous species.

  3. Re the RES key to broad-nosed weevils, I nearly went wrong with keying out Polydrusus formosus (= splendidus in the key) recently – the key has it as “femora without any trace of a tooth underneath” at couplet 3, but all the formosus I’ve seen have a small (sometimes very small) tooth under the femora.

  4. markgtelfer says:

    Martin, I’ve noticed the same issue and annotated my copy of the key such that the second part of couplet 3 reads: “Femora either without any trace of a tooth underneath (fig. 165) or in formosus with a small tooth on front femora (or all femora), obvious in full profile.”

  5. Angela says:

    “Hyperinae were accidentally omitted from the key to subfamilies. See Morris (2003) for a corrected key.” Ha ha, it took me 2 days to realise this!

  6. markgtelfer says:

    Angela, well done for working it out. These are the challenges of becoming a coleopterist!

  7. Tristan Bantock says:

    Just got the German weevil book – wish I was more fluent, but looks great and certainly good value

  8. I spoke to Mike last year and he told me to start with the Naturalists Handbook 16 – Weevils 1991 – Morris. It has a useful key for beginners “Main groups of British Weevils”. Problem here for beginners is you may not know where to go after this key as the RES keys were printed mainly after this book.

  9. markgtelfer says:

    Thanks Neil, I must admit I’d forgotten about the Naturalists Handbook. It is certainly still useful 21 years after publication but it could be difficult to translate into modern taxonomy.

    It would be good to have a key to the five groups of weevils covered by the five separate Handbooks. I’ll see what I can do, though hopefully someone will beat me to it.

  10. Simon Horsnall says:

    True Weevils Part I p71 Couplet 2. Should this read “pronotum strongly rounded at sides, its base much narrower than ELYTRAL base”?

  11. markgtelfer says:

    Simon, sorry to have neglected to reply at the time (new baby!). But yes, that couplet should read “narrower than elytral base” as you suggest.

  12. clive washington says:

    I have found two essentials when using these handbooks. The first is judicious use of a highlighting pen to emphasise the ‘easy’ characters so that the key can be worked through quickly. The other is that you must have a measuring graticule in your microscope eyepiece so that the various measurements and ratios can be found accurately and quickly. In fact this is pretty much essential for any serious entomology, as soon as you have one you will wonder how you ever managed without it.

  13. Simon Horsnall says:

    True Weevils Pt III, Key to groups p 6 couplet 27. Following the second lead through the second lead at couplet 29 takes you to 34 which asks again if the metathoracic epimera are visible or invisible. Can anybody suggest how I work my specimens when I get to couplet 27 and the metathoracic epimera are hidden?

  14. Andrew Duff says:

    Following Simon Horsnall’s June 15 2013 comment, this part of the key to groups in True Weevils III is a real mess: couplet 30 can be reached from both sides of couplet 26, an obvious contradiction. Mike has just published some rather defensive comments on True Weevils III in The Coleopterist 22: 65-66, but he hasn’t corrected the key to groups unfortunately.

  15. Andrew Cunningham says:

    Hello. Can anyone suggest what I should use to key out a specimen of Lixinae that I beat out of some Sea Beet on the south Devon coast today. It looks pretty spot on for Lixus scabricollis but I would like to be sure.

  16. markgtelfer says:

    The answer to Andrew’s Lixus query was given by Mike Morris on the beetles-britishisles yahoo group: “My True Weevils Pt. I (2002) covers the subfamily. However, your Lixus is almost certainly L. scabricollis, the host of which is Beta – and all the other Lixus on the British list are extinct here! Regards Mike Morris” 18th Nov. 2013.

  17. Rowan Alder says:

    Hi Mark, I seem to remember seeing somewhere that Sitona gressorius was added to the British list few years ago, found on Lupins. I don’t think anything has been published on its discovery yet though.

  18. markgtelfer says:

    Thanks Rowan, I had missed that species out. In fact it was published new to Britain in 2012 but under the new name Charagmus gressorius, rather than Sitona.

  19. Rowan Alder says:

    No worries Mark. Ahh I see no wonder I couldn’t find anything on it. Is it re-designated as Sitona in the latest Duff or has the name been changed since its publication?

  20. Andrew Duff says:

    To answer Rowan’s question: the 2012 checklist has this species in the genus Sitona because I’d been told that was the name of the species, however when the record was later published it was assigned to Charagmus. I presume the use of Sitona was based on an out-of-date revision. The name will be corrected to Charagmus gressorius in the next checklist edition.

  21. Ralph Atherton says:

    Just been looking at some weevils that I consider to be Phyllobius glaucus and Phyllobius pomaceus. It seems to me that both species ocur both as parallel and somewhat bulbous forms and that couplet 5 (p30 of broad-nosed weevils)may mislead as in the bulbous ones elytra may be only 1.7 x as long as wide, and hind tibiae not extending so far either. Comments?

  22. Mintesnot says:

    do you have any information about Apion clavipes?

  23. markgtelfer says:

    Mintesnot, no I don’t. Apion clavipes is not on the British & Irish list.

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