beetle red palm weevil 370.
(photo credit: Shimon Biton)
The Agriculture Ministry has warned that every minute trees could fall on passers-by due the alarming presence of an invasive beetle species from the Far East – the red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus Olivier).
Attacking mainly palm trees that are common in Israel's city streets, the approximately 3.5-centimeter red palm weevils eat the wood of the trees from the inside until the plant rots and collapses. The initial stages of infestation are usually undetectable, as a female weevil simply lands on the tree, gnaws on its top and then lays several hundreds eggs there. These eggs, in turn, hatch into the larvae that destroy the tree to its core, the Agriculture Ministry explained.
With origins in southeast Asia, the red palm weevil was first observed in Israel in 2009, in date groves and urban areas in Nahariya. The weevil mainly targets the canary palm tree but can also damage other types such as the date palm and coconut palm, the ministry said.
The areas of the country most at risk for weevil attacks include Haifa, Nahariya, Akko, Kiryat Shmona, Kiryat Tivon and the Hula Valley. Because the entire region of the North down to Hadera are actually in some danger of the invasion, palm trees there have received treatment without prior examination, the ministry said. Some weevils have also been observed in the Gaza vicinity, where trees will also be treated.
Last year, several palm trees collapse but fortunately did not hit passers-by, the Agriculture Ministry noted. However, due to the expansion of the weevil population, the ministry has heightened alert levels throughout the country for this summer.
Members of the public can help detect an infected tree by examining several details on the plant, the ministry stressed. A healthy palm tree should be straight and symmetrical, so any tilting is a sign of possible invasion. Meanwhile, if the wood seems damaged or dead, or branches are dropping like an umbrella, these too could be signs. If not already entirely dead, the trees can be saved by spraying a specific treatment at the origin of the palms, the ministry explained.
"Awareness of the general public about the phenomenon may help diagnose early signs and prevent the collapse of trees in cities," said Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir.