By Ted Reckas | LB Indy
Experts detected another palm tree near North Coast Highway and Wave Street with signs of red palm weevil damage earlier this month. The pest is a major killer of palm trees worldwide and was found on U.S. soil for the first time in the same North Laguna neighborhood in early October.
Since then, experts have worked to establish the extent of the infestation with detection efforts led by the state Department of Food and Agriculture, which has set 250 traps in the neighborhood where the bug was first found.
A group of red palm weevil experts from several date-growing countries joined federal, state and county agriculture officials and UCR scientists recently in inspecting the neighborhood as part of a training and detection program. Authorities still don’t know the breadth of the infestation and many local agencies are still being trained to properly identify and deal with it.
Steve Lyle, a spokesman for the state agency, said this new find expanded the search area by a quarter mile. Fall and winter are low activity times for the exotic insects, which flourish in spring’s warmer temperatures, so experts have warned that their low apparent numbers are not yet proof they haven’t spread.
“Dead or dying fronds showed evidence of weevil attack, empty cocoons were also found,” according to a blog by UC Riverside’s Center for Invasive Species Research.
Nick Nisson, an entomologist with the Orange County Agricultural Commissioner’s office, said, “It’s certainly not a complete surprise. On the other hand, with all the other survey and trapping efforts, its encouraging this remains very restricted to a very small area.”
If the red palm weevil does flourish, it could damage the state’s date crop, valued at $30 million annually, according to UC Riverside’s Center for Invasive Species Research. The beetles, which are native to Southeast Asia but also found in Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean, have caused extensive damage to palm tree growers in those areas.
The agriculture department’s pest hotline is 800 491-1899.