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Evil’ Weevils Threaten California Palm Trees

San Diego County Multimillion-Dollar Palm Nursery At Risk

Audio

Aired 8/16/11

There's another pest causing concern for California agriculture officials. This time, exotic weevils.

The weevils threaten several species of palm trees and a multimillion dollar San Diego County industry.

South American Palm Weevil
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Above: South American Palm Weevil

San Diego County Farm Bureau Executive Director Eric Larson said eight South American palm weevils were discovered in the last few weeks in the San Ysidro area near the U.S.-Mexico border.

He said the weevils threaten thousands of the county's crop-bearing and landscape palms.

"For the farm community that's growing palm trees to sell, for them the big threat is if they have this insect in their nursery they may have restrictions that won't allow them to ship for maybe up to a year," said Larson. "So they could be sitting on inventory they just can't sell."

Larson said finding out how far the weevils have spread is crucial in planning a response.

"It lands in the crown of the palm tree, so in the very top," said Larson. "And then it burrows down, it feeds on the crown until it's killed the tree. And you don't really know it's there until the tree is dead."

He said infested palms will often suffer notched new fronds or damage to the top of the crown.

The County Agriculture Department advised anyone seeing a weevil 1 1/2 inch to 2 inches long with a long, pronounced "snout" should report it. Weevils smaller than 1 1/2 inches are not a concern.

Palms the South American palm weevil threatens includes: date palms, Canary Island date palms, coconut palms, African oil palms, sago palms and Washingtonia fan palms.

Adult South American palm weevils are black and sometimes have a velvety appearance.

Larson said the Farm Bureau will host a meeting Thursday with county, state and University of California officials to talk about the weevils.

The informational meeting is 3-5 p.m. at the San Diego County Farm Bureau offices at 1670 E. Valley Parkway in Escondido.

Officials will present the latest information about the weevil discoveries, what agencies are doing, what actions they might take, how to identify the pests and what people can do to help.

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