• Carmen Milligan

What do you know about the boll weevil?

A coworker is going to Enterprise, Alabama for a few days. Enterprise is known to me for two reasons: tornadoes seem to love it there, and the tribute to the boll weevil.

Yep. The town has a statue in the center of town in tribute to the cotton pest. Why? This bug saved their economy. At the end of the 1800s, the south had wrapped its entire economy around the growth, harvest, and selling of cotton. Cotton was king. By the 1920s every cotton growing area had been infested by this insect, decimating the crops, and the economy.

These little critters are amazingly prolific. The female can lay up to 200 eggs in a baby cotton boll, where they hatch, feed, and pupate (I hate that word). The whole process from egg to adult is about three weeks. That means that there can be 8-10 generations in a single cotton-growing season. Yikes! The eradication program is a thing of genius, and has completely eradicated the boll weevil in several states. If you are interested, here is an informational video by the National Cotton Council of America.

Back to the story: the good people of Enterprise, Alabama didn't lament their bad luck long before they got down to business! The knew they had to diversify, and they started to plant other crops, the biggest being peanuts. By 1917, Coffee County, Alabama was the leading producer of peanuts in the United States. Two years later, the monument was erected as a tribute to the pest that brought about prosperity in the face of adversity. It is the only monument to an insect pest in the world.

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