Invasive Palm Weevil Spotted In Arizona

Published: Monday, July 20, 2015 - 9:24pm

(Photo courtesy of Pest and Diseases Image Library, Bugwood.org)
The South American palm weevil is a pest that can damage palm trees by feeding on plants, and can also transmit a disease-causing nematode, Bursaphelenchus cocophilus.

Palm trees are ubiquitous in Arizona, but a tiny new invader could put the plants at risk.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has announced the first confirmed sighting in Arizona of the South American palm weevil — an insect pest that can damage and kill palms.

Inspectors found a single dead South American palm weevil (Rhynchophorus palmarum) in Yuma on the ground near a weevil trap. The traps are part of ongoing efforts to monitor the pest.

The weevil feeds on date, coconut and sago palms, as well as other palm species.

The insect can also carry a nematode (Bursaphelenchus cocophilus) — or a small worm — which causes red-ring disease in palms. The disease forms red lesions in the stem of the plant and can kill the palm.

This nematode was absent from the weevil found in Yuma.

Although native to Central and South America, the weevil has been spotted in parts of the southern border of the United States, including California and Texas.

APHIS officials said the May discovery is an isolated incident in Arizona, to-date. 

If you see a palm weevil, you can report it to APHIS by calling 301-851-2155.

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