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The Boll Weevil Unmasked

Brittany Pickett
Contributing Writer

   If you were asked what a college mascot might be, you might guess a longhorn, a bulldog, a lion or some other such animal.  Rarely, you might think, would a college choose an insect as their mascot.  However, since 1925 the University of Arkansas at Monticello has made it known they are the Boll Weevils.  

   This summer, my sister and her friends in Utah asked me why my college mascot was an insect that ate cotton?  I wasn’t sure why UAM’s mascot was a Boll Weevil, but I proudly called myself one. They told me I needed to find out how and why the Boll Weevil represents the college. 

   To find out about the Boll Weevil mascot, I began my research in the William F. Droessler Special Collections Room of the Fred J. Taylor Library and Technology Center. There I found a lot of information in past year books and journals about the history of UAM, and of course our mascot - the Weevil.

   I found out that the school’s president in 1925, Frank Horsfall, gave the mascot its name at a pep rally before the first homecoming game against Magnolia A&M.  According to an article found in the Drew County Historical Journal, Horsfall stated, "The only gosh-darned thing that ever licked the South was the boll weevil. Boll weevils!  That’s what you are – Boll Weevils!”

   But the question of why UAM chose the boll weevil still ran through my mind, so I continued my research. 

   I found out in the early days of our school, back in 1909, it was not a college at all but a school for grades 6-12.  Sons and daughters of cotton planters attended the school called the Fourth District Agricultural School.

   In 1909, farmers did not have the luxury to use pesticides, as there were not any.  Thus, the insect that farmers feared the most was the boll weevil.  An article written for the 1925 Boll Weevil Yearbook states, “The bug could destroy crops in the blink of an eye.” 

   Fierce, tough, mean and courageous - these are some of the characteristics listed in the 1925 Boll Weevil Yearbook. These same qualities led early UAM students to adopt the boll weevil as their mascot, along with Horsfall's declaration. 

   So now I knew why the mascot became known as the Boll Weevil, but one small question still went through my mind - what exactly is a Boll Weevil? 

   Here I turned to the World Wide Web. I found a site from the Texas Cooperative Extension that told me all I ever wanted to know about the Boll Weevil. 

   Anthonomous grandis Boheman of the order Coleoptera  (better known as the Boll Weevil,) varies at adulthood from a brown to a grayish-brown color with fuzz on its body and a snout for its mouth.  The average size ranges from one-eight to almost one-half inches long.  

   The weevil feeds and develops on cotton and closely related tropical plants. In the spring, adult weevils will feed on tender cotton, pollen cotton squares and bolls known as fruit. They do this by drilling holes into the squares or bolls. The females will sometimes use the feeding sites to lay their eggs. After the weevil infests the cotton, it turns yellow and falls off the plant. In the larger infested bolls it may not fall off, but the cotton lint developing in these bolls becomes damaged.   

   The Texas Cooperative Extension Web site states, “Adults overwinter, or 'diapause,' in leaf litter and fly to cotton fields in the spring.”  There, they eat for three to seven days before mating. Afterwards, the “females lay eggs in cotton squares (flower buds) or bolls (fruit) that are one-fourth inch or more in diameter.”

   The larvae “hatch in two to five days, and larvae feed for seven to 14 days and develop through several stages (instars) before pupating.”  The adults “emerge in four to six days and chew their way out of the cotton square or boll in which they developed.”

   The total development, from egg to adult, can occur in 16 to 18 days. Six or seven generations of boll weevils will then hatch in the course of a year.   

    After finishing my research about the mascot of UAM and the insect in general, I  am still proud to call myself a boll weevil. As the saying goes, "There ain't nothing more evil than a damn boll weevil."


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ŠThe Voice 2007
01/13/2008 03:24:15 PM —