Palm Tree Pest Worries Nursery Owners

FRESNO, Calif.

Ever since the /*red palm weevil*/ was first discovered in southern California in October, state Ag officials have stepped up a trapping program. Now they're trying to educate the public about a pest which targets palm trees.

Palm trees have long lined popular Valley locations, including /*River Park*/. The palms are synonymous with California.

Tom Wash owns the /*Sago Rey palm plantation*/ in /*Fresno County*/. He grows over 50 different palm varieties so he does not want to see the red palm weevil make its way to the Valley. He explained, "That is the most destructive palm pest in the world. It's destroyed millions of coconut palms and oil palms in Asia and the Arabic countries."

But in October red palm weevils were found in a dying date palm in Laguna Beach.

Fresno County staff entomologist Gene Hannon said the weevils can bore holes into a healthy palm tree. "It will drill into the palm and lay eggs and it's the larvae or the grubs that do the damage."

Wash added, "They'll get up in there and bore into the crown and then the top collapses."

No other red palm weevils have been trapped since the original find in Orange County but the California Department of Food and Agriculture is now issuing alerts. Hannon said, "They put out flyers and educational hotlines so if anybody sees it they can call their Agricultural commissioner."

The pest doesn't pose an Agricultural threat to the Valley but palm trees play a big part in residential landscapes. Wash said, "Definitely we don't want this over here. It's very destructive particularly on our Canary island date palms, which is a very popular yard plant."

The red palm weevil is a little bigger than a penny. It's unknown how it got to Laguna Beach but Hannon figured it may have come through a nursery shipment.

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