The Red Palm Weevil – is it out of control?

Today’s post is about the Red Palm Weevil as I wanted to bring to your attention to the devastating effect this little critter is having on the palms as it munches its way across the world.

This majestic palm is infested with Red Palm Weevil
This majestic palm is infested with Red Palm Weevil

The lack of action in containing the spread of this weevil by some authorities is inexcusable.

I was not aware of the Red Palm Weevil until I attended a talk at our local gardening club. At that point there was no sign of the Red Palm Weevil in our local area but just nine months later it arrived and infested palms are being left to die, untreated thereby allowing the weevils to move on to their next host unchecked.

What is the Red Palm Weevil?

Red Palm Weevil
Red Palm Weevil

The Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus Ferrugineus) is an orangey brown beetle, about 3cm long, attracted to palms – especially males of the Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis ). Originally of South East Asia the Red Palm Weevil was accidentally introduced to countries such as USA, Egypt, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy and France to name just a few. Due to the lack of control of the movement of the palms from infested areas, both internationally and nationally, it is now out of control.

Life Cycle

Cocoon and Pupa
Cocoon and Pupa

The total life cycle takes about 7–12weeks. The adult female lays approximately two to three hundred eggs (like small grains of rice) on: new growth in the crown of the palm; at the base of young leaves; or in open lesions on the plant. The eggs hatch in two to five days into larva which then feed on the soft fibres and terminal buds. The larvae tunnel through the internal tissue of the tree for about a month until pupation when they then leave the tree and form a cocoon built of dry palm fibers in leaf litter at the base of the tree.

What are the signs of infection?

Crown of adult palm wilts and dies
Crown of adult palm wilts and dies

Early detection of infestation of the Red Palm Weevil is difficult as the larvae that damage the palm live inside the stems and base of leaves. Unfortunately, symptoms of infestation, are not visible until it is serious.

Signs of infestation include: leaves of the adult palm crown wilt and die; holes in the leaf bases; chewed fibre at the base of stem or edge of leaves. Apparently, by the time these external symptoms are observed the damage is usually sufficient to kill the tree and if you place your ear against the palm you can hear the lavae munching away!

However, despite the research carried out so far, no safe techniques for early detection of the pest have been devised.

Protecting and treating palms

Contact Insecticides such as Confidor, Diazinon or Vetimec can be applied to the surface to combat eggs and pupae.
Systemic Insecticides such as Imidacloprid or Tiamatoxin is usually applied through a funnel about 5 cm above the infested area of the trunk so it absorbed into the palm tissue
Pheromone traps can also be attached to the palm to capture and kill the Weevil.

Prevention is better than cure – so one suggestion I discovered is to leave the lower fronds of your palms to die naturally before removing. Alternatively, only trim fronds approximately one meter from the base of the crown rather than close to the trunk as biff the palm is injured, because of freshly cut fronds, such as, this can attract the beetles by kairomone, a smell emitted from the tree’s wounds.
Professional advice should be sought for treatment or removal of the infested palm.

The palms most commonly affected are the Canary Palm Phoenix canariensis and the Date Palm Phoenix dactylifera . Weevils can also attack the Washingtonia although, not as common.

More detailed information, pictures, videos and podcasts about the Red Palm Weevil can be found at the Centre for Invasive Species Research, California

Please also see comments below from Dr.C.M.muralidharan.

Do you have palms in your neighbourhood? Have they been infested with the Red Palm Weevil?

13 thoughts on “The Red Palm Weevil – is it out of control?

Add yours

  1. Palm Doc have been treating my palms here in the Algarve since i lost a 4m high palm several years ago. I have had no problems since. Also every 2 months i fill pieces of tights with moth balls and hang them from the fronds as these will deter the weevils as well. Hope this helps.


  2. What is the best treatment please? We have this weevil in Aljezur. It has killed a magnificent 100 year old palm in Aljezur by the bridge in the town and is devastating palms all over the place. I have seven 10 year old Canary Island Date palms and one of these is dead already. I am pouring imidacloprod (Confidor) over all the palm crowns to stop any more damage. Is their anything more I can do?. Thanks. Valdy


    1. Hi and welcome Valdi,

      You are doing everything they recommend. I have heard inserting mothballs in the trunk of the tree may help, but I’ve not received further feedback. Maybe worth a try




  3. Hi we have lived in the Algarve for 25 yrs and have been batteling the red palm weavil for about 2 yrs now ,we are commpletely on top of the treatment,which is various insecticide mixtures poured into the centre of the palm ,10 in all and i am happy to say all the palms are strong and healthy,if more people looked after their own palms we would have more chance of stopping these destructive little insects,but i know alot of people in the Algarve who simply dont care !
    Hillary nicholls


  4. This is a culprit of indian orgin a serious pest of coconuts and also date palm in western boarder of india.Unlike canary palms,in it hardly attack from the crown! Since the grubs tunnels the trunk and forward upwards,immediately after removing as many as grubs, trating with fumigants like aluminium phosphide is found to be very effective. Local farmers sprinkle sugary solution/jaggery etc at the base which attract ants ,which go in to trunk and take care of the grubs . In my opinion a constant vigil is very much needed to detect and monitor this insect ,if detect early easy to manage other wise very difficult.


    1. Thank you so much for the additional information. Since researching and writing this article there have been so many more palms here in Portugal infested with this Weevil. I will add your comment to the above article thanks.


    1. Hi Redneckprincess

      It’s such a great shame…it will totally change the landscape. It makes me feel sad when the spread of this weevil could have been prevented with proper control of imports

      There are also pine forests here. Have you written about the pine beetle on your blog?

      Kind regards


      1. Hi there, I live in Javea , Costa Blanca, Spain. We also have a huge problem in this area, particularly since last summer, with the red palm weevil, the pijudo rojo, as they call it here. The authorities have only just started to try to take action. In Elche they have one of the largest palm “poblations” in Europe, with ancient palm species under threat. I have only 12 palms in my garden, mostly canarieses, the biggest one was infected and a local specialist has carried out “surgery”, which appears to be successul, as new leaves are now growing from the crown. It broke my heart to see such a majestic palm infected. In hope everyone can work together to stop this spreading. Regards, Alba, Javea, Spain


        1. Hi Alaba and welcome!

          In Portugal they did to little to late and everywhere I look palms are dying. Most left untreated and a monument to the apathy the Portuguese have taken to address this problem. I went to a meeting at our school to learn more about the weevil and how they were dealing with the problem locally. Very few people attended and the camara who’s organised the meeting did not have a clue.
          Friends of mine are now treating their palms just 1 large and 2 small at about a cost of 15euros a month (because the treatment has to be ongoing) This is a lot of money over the course of a year when every penny counts in these times of Austerity. It’s a great shame, but Spain like Portugal had the opportunity to ban imports years ago and they chose to do nothing. Still at least someone is making money from this disaster. The guys who cut the trees down, the shops who sell the chemicals and of course the company prodcuing the chmicals. Hey ho!


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