Business & Economy

Crews deal with discovery of destructive weevil in OC

Close up of the red palm weevil.
Close up of the red palm weevil.

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You might have notice tiny boxes and canvassing work crews around lately, if you live in Laguna Beach. They’re trying to stop a pest known as the red palm weevil.

The tiny bug could spell trouble for local growers.

The weevil is a native of Southeast Asia. It attacks — and often kills — palm trees.

A landscape contractor spotted one in a tree in Laguna Beach this month and reported it to agricultural officials.

This is the first time the red palm weevil has been seen in the United States.

Agricultural officials have been conducting a door-to-door survey of the neighborhood and setting out about 250 traps to see if it’s an infestation. The network of traps will cover about nine square miles because the red palm weevil can fly pretty far.

The weevils can kill the trees they infest, which could mean a big hit to palm tree growers and nurseries.

California nurseries sell about $70 million worth of palm trees each year. That doesn’t include the state's annual $30 million date palm crop, mostly in the Coachella Valley.

Infested palm trees usually have tiny holes where the red palm weevils have entered. Sometimes those holes can be hidden. The holes also may have oozing brown liquid and chewed fibers. Heavily invested trees may have dead weevils and fallen pupal cases around the base of the tree.

Agricultural officials say if you see any symptoms of the red palm weevil, you should call the California Department of Food and Agriculture's toll-free Pest Hotline at 1-800-491-1899.