"Ain’t nobody works much in dis country cep de boll-weevil, noways"
Cotton boll weevil
Public DomainCotton boll weevil - Credit: United States Department of Agriculture

The boll-weevil is quarter-inch long beetle whose main diet consists of cotton buds and flowers, the very plant on which the southern economy was dependent. Native to Mexico, it migrated into south Texas in 1892 and, advancing at a rate of about 70 miles a year, had infested all cotton-growing areas by the 1920s. The destruction it wreaked was so great that cotton yields were halved between 1914 and 1923, and the annual loss in profits amounted to tens of millions of dollars.

 

Countless blues artists have sung of the blight of the boll-weevil. Listen to Leadbelly’s 'Boll Weevil'. 

The ‘Cotton Belt’ states which were devastated by the boll-weevil
Creative Commons AttributionThe ‘Cotton Belt’ states which were devastated by the boll-weevil - Credit: Eric Fischer

 

 

 

Dusting cotton for boll-weevils
Creative Commons AttributionDusting cotton for boll-weevils - Credit: jwinfred