Officials say the TBWEF eradication program became necessary well over 100 years ago, but an organized program of eradication developed through the years. From 1917 until the late 1940s, the most effective method of control was the use of short-season, early maturing cotton varieties and dusting with calcium arsenate. During World War II, DDT and other chlorinated hydrocarbons were developed and made available to control many insect pests, including the boll weevil.

According to the TBWEF website, in 1955 scientists reported that boll weevils were becoming resistant to chlorinated hydrocarbons, and within two years resistance was widespread throughout the Cotton Belt. Concern was growing about the destruction of beneficial insect populations and the widespread occurrence of organochlorines in the environment.

Organochlorines were gradually abandoned in favor of organophosphate insecticides. Although the boll weevil has shown resistance to organophospates in Central America, it has yet to develop resistance in the United States, even in the Texas High Plains, where organophosphates have been used in an ongoing diapause program since 1964.

By the late 1980s, about $70 million was being spent annually to control the boll weevil, but the pest still caused an estimated $200 million in crop losses each year. Officials realized a new control strategy was imperative. Yield losses attributed to the boll weevil, the cost of insecticide control, environmental considerations, infestation of secondary insects and insect resistance all resulted in an aggressive effort to develop a Beltwide strategy for controlling the boll weevil in the United States.

Eradication programs were launched in the Southeast and by 1991 programs in the West were producing results as well. Only Texas remained of major concern. The Texas Boll Weevil Eradication Foundation was established by the Texas Legislature in 1993. The cotton-producer run, nonprofit foundation governs and oversees the implementation of the boll weevil eradication program in Texas.

While most areas of the state are weevil free, a quarantine zone along the Texas/Mexico border in the Rio Grande Valley remains in effect and stalk destruction programs are still required in an effort to maintain safeguards against re-infestation. USDA officials are now working with their counterparts in Mexico to bring about further eradication of the pest in North America.

Eradication officials say that cotton producers in coastal areas who cannot meet their respective destruction deadlines can request an individual extension by visiting the Texas Department of Agriculture Website at


Cotton articles also of interest:

Is South Texas buffer zone needed to prevent boll weevil reinfestation…

Boll weevil-free status must be guarded to prevent reinfestation

China syndrome controls cotton market