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A Real Alien Invasion Is Coming to a Palm Tree Near You | Deep Look

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Channel: Deep Look
Categories: Biology   |   Environmental   |   Science  
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The South American palm weevil is bursting onto the scene in California. Its arrival could put one of the states most cherished botanical icons at risk of oblivion.

DEEP LOOK is a ultra-HD (4K) short video series created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios. See the unseen at the very edge of our visible world. Get a new perspective on our place in the universe and meet extraordinary new friends. Explore big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.


Summer means vacation time, and nothing says, Welcome to paradise! quite like a palm tree. Though its home to only one native species, California has nonetheless adopted the palm as a quintessential icon.

But a new snake in Californias palm tree-lined garden may soon put all that to the test. Dozens of palms in San Diegos Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, about 10 miles from the Mexican border, are looking more like sad, upside-down umbrellas than the usual bursts of botanical joy.

The offender is the South American palm weevil, a recent arrival to the U.S. thats long been widespread in the tropics. Large, black, shiny, and possessed of an impressive proboscis (nose), the weevil prefers the king of palms, the Canary Island date palm, also known as the pineapple palm for the distinctive way its typically pruned.

A palm tree is basically a gigantic cake-pop, an enormous ball of veggie goodness on a stick. The adult female palm weevil uses her long snout to drill tunnels into that goodnessknown to science as the apical meristem and to your grocer as the heart of the palmwhere she lays her eggs.

When her larvae hatch, their food is all around them. And they start to eat.

If the South American palm weevil consolidates its foothold in California, then the worst might still be to come. While these weevils generally stick to the Canary Island palms, they can harbor a parasitic worm that causes red-ring diseasea fatal infection that can strike almost any palm, including the states precious native, the California fan.

--- Where do South American Palm Weevils come from?

Originally, Brazil and Argentina. Theyve become common wherever there are Canary Island Palm trees, however, which includes Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East.

--- How do they kill palm trees?

Their larvae eat the apical meristem, which is the sweet part of the plant sometimes harvested and sold commercially as the heart of palm.

--- How do you get rid of them?

If the palm weevils infest a tree, its very hard to save it, since they live on the inside, where they escape both detection and pesticides. Neighboring palm trees can be sprayed for protection.

---+ Read the entire article on KQED Science:

---+ For more information:

Visit the UC Riverside Center for invasive Species Research:

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