Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Every year at this time Mark and I check out The Chestnut Tree. Three years ago we stumbled upon the tree and a bumper crop (I'm not telling where, so save your breath) but the last two years have been disappointing. This year we found seven (not good). That's how it goes with foraging: sometimes it's feast, sometimes it's famine.

So when my friend Lisa said her father had sent a surplus of chestnuts and asked if I'd like some, I leaped at the chance. Visions of chestnut soup, chestnut pudding, candied chestnuts danced in my head. Those visions did NOT include wriggling maggots on my kitchen counter.

Surprise! When I opened the box, I stroked the warm, brown surfaces of the nuts. So pretty, so smooth. Then, underneath the chestnuts, something moved. A pulsating, 1/4 inch long, white maggot with a brown head. And another. And another. Not so pretty.

Never one to be deterred by a little additional protein, I tossed the hole-y nuts and their resident maggots, assuming the remainder of the chestnuts were sound. Wrong. A few days later there were more maggots than I cared to count. A quick email to Lisa confirmed that her nuts were also entirely yucky. And she had already eaten a few!

Lisa warned her dad and we've all learned a lesson. A lesson I'm going to share with you:

Once upon a time there was a chestnut weevil (a kind of beetle). It lived in the ground during winter and emerged in early summer. It flew around and around, and being a female weevil, in the fall it drilled a hole (with its super-long proboscis) through the nut's burr (the spiky outer covering) and into the nut meat. Then it laid eggs in the hole. 10 days later the eggs hatched and larvae developed. When the nut fell to the ground each maggot chewed a hole to escape the nut and dig into the ground. They overwintered there for one or two winters before emerging, pupating, and beginning the cycle all over again.

It's a happy story (for the weevil), but you can destroy that insect happiness by simply picking up chestnuts as soon as they fall. If the larvae don't have a chance to dig into the ground, they can't develop into beetles, can't lay eggs, can't turn into chestnut-eating-maggots. You'll need to do this for 3-4 years to make a real difference. Of course you could just spray in spring, when the adult weevils emerge, but interrupting the life cycle is a pesticide-free way of controlling the insect.

Bon appetit!


At October 20, 2007 at 6:27 PM , Blogger SaraGardens said...

Ah, critters. I was just looking at my beautiful photos of the hard-to-site Campanula 'Little Punky' (it's a C. punctata cultivar that would knock your socks off if you spent enough time face-down beside it)... and what did I see but a massive slug on the t.c. pot. The photos actually look like close-up slug portraits, but I didn't see the little slimer at the time.

At November 1, 2007 at 8:03 PM , Blogger molly said...

similar thing happened to me with corn. really freaky and nasty. but now i know!

At September 30, 2009 at 7:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the info. When my girls were little we had a 25' chestnut tree in our yard that was later downed in a hurricane. Being a barefooter I worked hard at getting all those dropped things off the ground asap and we roasted chestnuts! This year I picked some up from a friends yard in an area that is left for semi-wild. Mailed some to my daughter for her to roast with her kids. She called me freaked out about maggots in her nuts. I have them in mine and went looking for an answer. I will start looking for a chestnut tree souce to plant in my yard and pass the info on to her. thanks for the lesson. Elizabeth Baer

At September 30, 2009 at 8:12 AM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Good luck, Elizabeth. I'm going to check our tree this weekend.

At October 18, 2009 at 2:51 PM , Anonymous Christie B said...

Just saw my beautiful chestnuts jumping around in a bowl... and lo and behold, I looked more closely and there were little holes in the chestnuts and maggots that had crawled out... I guess I am going to have to give up the romantic notion of roasting chestnuts... And to think, I just transplanted 3 chestnut seedlings in my yard. Now I will have a yard full of maggots...

At October 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM , Anonymous Maria said...

Thanks for this useful post.

I had not even know about maggots in chestnuts until a friend posted about it on Facebook.

And then another friend linked to your site.

At October 18, 2009 at 5:40 PM , Blogger Ellen Zachos said...

Hi Christie and Maria,

Don't give up hope! If you pick up all fallen nuts as soon as they fall for the next 2-3 years, you will have interrupted the life cycle and your yard should be maggot free.

Good luck!

At June 18, 2015 at 4:37 PM , Blogger marinir seo said...

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