First red palm weevil found in the UK

Red palm weevil has intercepted by APHA after a customer at a garden centre in Essex handed in the pest, which had been imported in a consignment from an EU country.

Red palm weevil - image: APHA
Red palm weevil - image: APHA

APHA is looking for other weevils within the retailer from the same consignment of fan palms (Livistonia rotundifolia) and is looking further afield for more but has yet to find any further examples of the pest.

Rhynchophorus ferrugineus Olivier is the most important pest of date palm in the world. The pest attacks several ornamental palms imported into the UK, such as chusan palm. The EU has introduced emergency measures to prevent further spread.

Adults weevils and larvae were collected by APHA plant health inspectors, sent to Fera for identification and the infected palm was burnt.

The Red palm weevil causes a total loss of foliage and rotting of the trunk, which eventually results in the death of the tree.

Each adult female lays 200-330 eggs in holes in the tree. Larvae bore into the tree feeding on soft, succulent tissues and reach 50mm long.

Availability of insecticides in the UK is limited so destruction is likely to be the only successful eradication measure.

A spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Agency said: "Red palm weevil adults and larvae were identified in a palm purchased from a retailer in Essex. APHA established an Incident Action Plan and is carrying out tracing, surveillance and awareness raising to determine whether the pest is present elsewhere and to eradicate it. No further findings have been made at this time. The weevil only affects palm plants and presents no risk to human health."

This the first finding of an infested palm in the UK. The affected palm was one of an imported consignment, the origin of which is being investigated.

The red palm weevil is already established in Europe including in France, Greece, Italy and Spain. Its effects include loss of foliage and trunk rotting, which in some cases this can lead to the death of the tree. The weevil has a lifecycle of around four months.

Further information is at https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/phiw/riskRegister/plant-health/documents/notifiable_pests/redPalmWeevil.pdf.

Any sightings of the weevil should be reported to APHA.


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