Red Palm Weevil (RPW)

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Click here for a larger view of scaled image of the red palm weevil - (Photo by Plant Pest Diagnostics Center, CDFA)

Agricultural officials have confirmed the detection of a red palm weevil in the Laguna Beach area of Orange County - the first-ever detection of the pest in the United States. The weevil is considered to be the world’s worst pest of palm trees. An infestation typically results in the death of the tree.

In response to the original contact by the landscaper, state and local agricultural officials, working in partnership with the USDA, began an extensive, door-to-door survey in the neighborhood and are setting about 250 traps to determine if an infestation exists. Protocols for this pest call for an initial survey covering a 1.5 square mile radius around the detection property, resulting in a trapping array covering nine square miles.

The red palm weevil, scientific name Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, is a major pest of palm trees, many of which are highly valued as landscaping plants, generating approximately $70 million in nursery plant sales in California annually. Palm trees are also used for producing crops and marketable agricultural commodities including coconuts, dates and oils. In California, date palm growers harvest an annual crop worth approximately $30 million. The vast majority of these farms are in the Coachella Valley region.

Damaged palm fronds, Nov 2009 - (Photo by

Female red palm weevils bore into a palm tree to form a hole into which they lay eggs. Each female may lay an average of 250 eggs, which take about three days to hatch. Larvae emerge and tunnel toward the interior of the tree, inhibiting the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients upward to the crown. After about two months of feeding, larvae pupate inside the tree for an average of three weeks before the reddish-brown adults emerge. Adults live for two to three months, during which time they feed on palms, mate multiple times and lay eggs.

Adult weevils are considered strong fliers, venturing more than a half-mile in search of host trees. With repeated flights over three to five days, weevils are reportedly capable of traveling nearly four-and-a-half miles from their hatch site. They are attracted to dying or damaged palms, but can also attack undamaged host trees. Symptoms of the weevil and the larval entry holes are often difficult to detect because the entry sites can be covered with offshoots and tree fibers. Careful inspection of infested palms may show holes in the crown or trunk, possibly along with oozing brown liquid and chewed fibers. In heavily infested trees, fallen pupal cases and dead adult weevils may be found around the base of the tree.

Residents are encouraged to report suspect infestations or damaged palms by calling the CDFA Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.

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Modified - 06/29/11