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Red palm weevil

We are appealing for palm growers, importers and retailers to be on the lookout for the Red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus), a threat to palm trees, which was identified in the UK for the first time in October 2016. It was found inside a round-leaf fountain palm imported from Italy, which had been purchased in Essex. The infested plant was destroyed.

APHA inspectors have surveyed susceptible palm trees within 10km of the affected tree and found no further signs of it. Tracing work has been carried out to locate and inspect material which was sent to other retailers and no further finds have been made to date.

We are appealing to the trade to look out for signs of the Red palm weevil over the coming months and to source material carefully to avoid importing unwanted pests such as this into the UK.

The Red palm weevil does not pose any risk to people, pets or livestock but is known to attack and kill a large range of palm species popular in the UK. The pest is native to Asia but was accidently introduced to Spain in 1994 and since then it has spread widely in the Mediterranean region where it has devastated ornamental palms, particularly the Canary Island date palm. It is known to affect palm species including Butia, Chamaerops, Phoenix, Saribus (=Livistona) Trachycarpus and Washingtonia.

Weevils do not survive the winter however the larvae can. Larvae are legless, about 50 mm long, with a creamy-white body and reddish-brown head.  Adult weevils are not expected to emerge until June. They are about 35 mm long, with a characteristic long curved extension to the front of the head called a rostrum.

Larvae complete their lifecycle inside the palm, forming galleries as they tunnel their way through the trunk and bases of palm fronds. Adult beetles are most likely to be seen in the UK from June-September when summer temperatures are highest.

Larvae, pupae, pupal cases, and adults, can be found in the dead or dying crown of the palm or infested fronds. In heavily infested palms fallen empty pupal cases and dead adults may be found around the base of the palm. Early infestations or low numbers of the weevil in plants are very difficult to detect. The older leaves of a palm begin to droop during the early stages of infestation but quickly collapse. Later stages or large infestations cause a decreased size and yellowing of the frond, particularly the new fronds as the larvae destroy the growing point of the palm. Eventually the frond canopy becomes very small and distorted relative to the trunk and the crown dies.

Suspect findings of the Red palm weevil should be reported to APHA’s Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate by telephoning 01904 405138 or by emailing: planthealth.info@apha.gsi.gov.uk

The Government is committed to doing everything possible to prevent plant pests and diseases crossing our borders and, although we cannot eliminate all risks, we have stringent plans to deal with threats and take prompt action when they are detected. The Government continues to work closely with the international community, industry, NGOs, landowners and the public to reduce the risks of pests and diseases entering the country, and to mitigate the impact of newly established ones.