42 billion worms airlifted from Germany to combat palm weevil crisis

Worms brought in as measure to eradicate pest threatening palm trees throughout the country.

Nematode worms. (photo credit: BIOBEE)
Nematode worms.
(photo credit: BIOBEE)
About 42 billion worms have arrived from Germany to Israel as part of a national campaign to naturally combat the red palm weevil species that continues to infect the country’s palm trees.
After a recent outbreak of red palm weevil infestations began throughout the country, the BioBee company, based in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, decided to bring in the nematode worms from Germany as a biologically controlled measure to eradicate the pests.
The weevils’ spread throughout the country has resulted in great economic costs to local authorities and palm tree growers, the company stressed.
In addition, the tiny weevils are endangering human lives as their infestations put trees in jeopardy of falling.
A species of the snout beetle, the 3.5 cm.-long red palm weevil has long been identified by the Agriculture Ministry as a threatening pest to palm trees all over the country. Throughout recent years, Agriculture Ministry researchers and academics have engaged in projects to eliminate the weevils’ presence, including the European Union’s multinational Palm Protect program.
Originating in Southeast Asia, the red palm weevil has spread throughout the Mediterranean area as well as other countries such as China, Japan and even the United states, according to Agriculture Ministry data. The larvae of the weevil gnaw into the trunks and crowns of palm trees and cause severe damage – usually leading to the death and collapse of the tree and the destruction of entire orchards or parks.
In Israel, the red palm weevils first presented itself in palm groves north of the Dead Sea in 1999, after which they were controlled through mass trappings and chemical treatments, according to the Agriculture Ministry. Infections have occurred on and off since.
BioBee, a company that engages in “biologically based integrated pest management” – using living organisms to control agricultural pests – has brought in the nematode worms, which are not dangerous in any way to humans or animals, the company said.
The firm stressed that the weevils have become resistant to many of the chemical treatments against them, which can also be toxic to humans or other animals.
As part of the biologically based control method, workers place nematode worms in each of the affected palm trees, and the worms are able to identify the red palm weevil larvae and target them, BioBee said. The nematodes infect the weevils in a parasitic way, causing their death and dying with them as they lose their own food source.
In addition to bringing in the nematodes, BioBee is also making use of traps from Spain that mimic the smell of an infected tree. The weevils are attracted to the smell and enter the trap to drown. This method has proved successful in the Canary Islands, which have also suffered damage from the weevils, the company said.
“In some communities, people recently have begun to lose all hope in the Sisyphean struggle against the weevils and decided to give up on their palm trees, despite their great contribution to exterior appearance,” the company said. “At BioBee in Sde Eliyahu we hope that with the help of the pest control combination of worms and traps it may be possible to reduce the presence of the weevils and protect the palm trees.”