Watch Out for Falling Palm Trees Near You

date palm, red weevil
The date palm is an important part of the religious, cultural, and economic heritage of the
Arabian Peninsula and the rest of the Middle East. But now it is being decimated by a tiny invasive beetle.

Remember the story of the href=”http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/03/2000-year-old-date-pit-sprouts-in-israel/”>2,000 year-old date palm recently spouted in Israel? The invasive beetle, the red palm weevil, is slowly but steadily working its way across the region killing mighty date palm trees in its wake.

Pedestrians are being told to watch out for trees that could suddenly fall.

Imagine the Middle East without towering palm trees? It’s like Canada without the maple tree, or beer gardens in Europe without their horse chestnuts. But all these varieties trees are falling prey to invasive species who for lack of natural enemies are taking over new parts of the world.

In today’s local Israeli newspaper Haaretz, a newspaper report highlights the problem of the weevil, a small snout-nosed beetle killing date palms in Israel. They are yet to move in to Tel Aviv but most other major cities are now starting to deal with the problem.

In Haaretz:

“Date palms in cities throughout Israel have fallen prey to a beetle that eats away at the tree trunk and could cause them to fall over this summer, endangering pedestrians, the Agriculture Ministry has warned. The ministry called on the public to inform municipal authorities if they see trees that appear diseased so they can be treated before it is too late.”

The weevil is brown, 3.5 centimeters long and has a long snout.

In Saudi Arabia, there is a national campaign for control of the weevil by containing it, then destroying it using pesticides. Pheromone traps are also used there to control the thread of the beetle which emerges from the base of the tree, boring its way up through under the bark. Signs of infestation which can eventually topple the trees, can appear as a slightly bent and droopy crown hanging like a closed umbrella.

Already in 2006, the problem of the weevil was reported in Lebanon, and in 2008 the weevil was cited as a great danger in Abu Dhabi.

Las week Saudi Arabia claims that it now threatens 6 million trees in the country, and that a better framework for controlling it is needed badly.

The bugs started spreading in the 80s when it was accidentally introduced to the Middle East from Asia.

Obviously a smart biological control system that introduces natural prey to kill the beetles would be a desirable chemical-free way of solving the problem. Asian foresters may be able to come to the rescue. And if they find a solution maybe it can help make some Middle East peace. Just maybe.

Image via apajadore

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