Torrevieja’s Palm trees are under attack from the worst possible source; the Red Palm Weevil. Originally from Asia this beetle is thought to have first arrived in a shipment of Palms from Egypt to Andalusia, in1994 and has been a constant threat ever since. This matter is of very serious concern and Councillor for Environment, Eduardo Gil Rebollo, has asked for public cooperation to try to stem this outbreak.
One major fear of the spread of the weevil is also for Elche’s ancient Palm Trees and so action has been swift from the Torrevieja Town Hall and their environmental police department. The weevil is about 3-cm in length but has the ability to fly long distances searching for new trees in which to lay their larva, usually numbering up to 200 at a time. Once inside the tree, they eat the tree from the inside out, usually spending their entire seven-week lifespan located in just one Palm. They are very difficult to detect, usually not until it’s too late to save the tree.
Torrevieja is especially vulnerable, with walkways and roadways containing hundreds of trees throughout the city. Since the weevil is difficult to spot in the first instance and infestation can take place in matter of weeks, the public are being asked to contact the town hall about any trees that they think are affected. The only way to rid the tree of the pest is to isolate, cut and then burn the tree, leaves and roots.
The weevil’s larvae can excavate holes up to a metre long in the trunk of the palms, as they bore towards the core of the tree in search of nourishment. This destroys the tree from the inside out and when the Palm no longer offers a source of sustenance, they leave the tree looking for another victim. The beetle costs the region dear, not only in terms of the destruction of the Palms that beautify the city but in the costs associated with purchase, planting, detection, cutting, burning, safely depositing the remains and replacement!
The weevil has a voracious appetite and a major infestation can kill a large palm in 20-30 days, while others can take up to eight months to die. Experts originally thought that the beetle only attacked trees younger than 12-years of age but in areas such as Italy, Palms of up to 100-years have been infested, which is causing worry among the conservationists, landscapers and experts of Elche and beyond.
The first signs of infestation are usually when the upper palms of a tree fall off and a possible change in colour of the leaves. Another source of concern is the lack of knowledge from some landscaping companies and gardeners, who have removed infested trees and dumped them into green waste skips. Many are unaware that this action causes the weevils to immediately look for a new home, further adding to the infestation of an area. If you suspect a Palm to be infected, on public or private property, please contact the Town Hall as soon as possible.