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A Brief History of The Red Palm Weevil

weevil3The Red Palm Weevil (Latin name: Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) originated in South-east Asia and Melanesia more than a century ago. It first arrived in Southern Europe in the 1980s – discovering the delights of two ubiquitous date palm species, Phoenix canariensis and Phoenix dactylifera, which it seems to prefer over all the other potential host palms. That’s the first bit of ‘good news’ as this lets people focus on prevention programmes for these palms before worrying about any others – but here things get difficult again: Phoenix canariensis palms are everywhere – and one of the hardest things about controlling this bug is that it can remain ‘out of sight’, within its host tree, for its entire life-cycle: right from the moment when the female weevil lays her 300-odd eggs, to the time it emerges from its pupa as a full-grown reddishbrown adult beetle equipped with wings, and capable of flying considerable distances. The weevils are content to spend their whole lives in the same tree – but if the tree dies, they rapidly move on to a new host. It is estimated that for every palm tree killed this way, eight more are then infected by flying weevils.
Another daunting problem is that there’s a relatively long period between infestation and any indication that something is wrong with the tree – but correspondingly there’s a much shorter period between the first warning signs and the point where the tree becomes unrecoverable.

“It is all about control,” palm specialist Pedro Seromenho of Naturjardins explains.
“If owners watch out for warning signs, there is nearly always the chance of full recovery. But we have to get to the tree in time...”