This week unfortunately one of the palm trees at our school has had to be cut down and removed because it was badly infested by a major palm tree pest, the red palm weevil. This snout beetle is affecting many palm trees in our area and all of the south of Spain. The palm trees are weakened by this pest and eventually die. Sadly, it's frequent to see palm trees with dry, brown or yellowish, droopy leaves.
This however has given us the opportunity to take a closer look at this species, and thanks to the maintenance workers at school that have picked out some samples for us, we have been able to see the red palm weevil at different stages of their life cycle.
The red palm weevil belongs to the Curculionidae family or snout beetles, recognised by their distinctive long snout. It's scientific name is Rhynchophorus ferrugineus. Originally from tropical Asia, it has spread to Africa and Spain. It was first recorded in Spain in 1994.
After fertilisation the female lays between 200 and 300 eggs in holes or cracks in the palm tree. They hatch after approximately 3 days and larvae are born. It's the burrowing of the larvae into the heart of the palm that causes the greatest harm to the trees. They feed voraciously with their jaws on the soft fibres inside the palm.
After about a month, the larva form a coccoon or pupal case made of palm tree fibres. The pupa undergoes metamorphosis and changes into a adult beetle. The adult is an excellent flier and can fly long distances.
(A special thanks to prof. Julián Macías for bringing the samples to the laboratory so we could have a closer look at the red palm weevil and its life cycle).
Take a look at these photographs of the samples taken from the school's infested tree.
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