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28 October 2013

Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus)

This photograph of a Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus) was taken in Malta in 2011 by my husband.  We have since identified this same insect in Tunis.

My recent blog post about the Red Palm Weevil has attracted much interest.  A friend in England wrote to me to say that apparently isolated outbreaks have also been recorded in the UK on imported trees and kindly sent me the following link:(http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/publications/documents/factsheets/redPalmWeevil.pdfThis article from Defra concurs with my previous blog post in that the two palm species of particular concern appear to be the date palm (Phoenix dactylifera) and the Canary Island date palm (P. Canariensis).  Having said that, the Red Palm Weevil has also been known to attack several other ornamental species of palm.   
Here in Tunis, my husband and I have been observing an ornamental palm which we thought might have recently succumbed to the palm weevil.  At the time, we suspected that the palm weevil may have been the cause but we had no evidence.  The beautiful, old and majestic palm dropped all of its fronds and very soon the center of the palm toppled over. Several days after the municipal arborists had removed much of the palm fronds we went to the site and upon closer inspection which included ferreting around on the ground beneath the palm we found the dead and dried up carapaces (bodies) of several insects.  My husband who had studied entomology at university said the insects were the different instars or stages of the Red Palm Weevil.  We found several larvae in different stages of development and a dried up carapace of the Red Palm Weevil.  Through careful observation we had the proof that the Red Palm Weevil was indeed responsible for the demise of this palm.  We had collected these insects with a view to photographing them as I wanted to include them in this blog post but they had an unpleasant odour so I threw them out. 
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