Symptoms and Population Dynamics of Rhynchophorus Cruentatus (Coleoptera: Curculionidae) in Canary Island Date Palms
AbstractWe documented the decline of a 2-hectare Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis) nursery caused by the palmetto weevil (Rhynchophorus cruentatus) in Dade County, FL. External palm symptoms were defined, divided into nine categories, and representative palms were destructively harvested to assess internal weevil associations. Apparently healthy palms declined and died in a mean of 49 days. At the beginning of the study, 42% of 950 palms appeared healthy but within seven months only 3% were alive. Economic losses were estimated at $285,000-$380,000 for the nursery studied. Palm decline was patchily distributed in the field. The mean palm weevil counts ranged from 0.3 to 223.3 weevils per palm, for healthy to collapsing palms, respectively. Twenty-four weevil grubs were sufficient to kill one mature palm. External symptoms did not allow preventative diagnosis and treatment of internal R. cruentatus infestations. By the time that external symptoms were unambiguous, the mean total weevil counts per palm were over 100 with more than 65% as larvae and more than one quarter of these were >2.5 cm in length. Palms in these categories were dying because of irreparable damage to their apical meristems and attempts to save them would have been ineffectual. Thus, phytosanitation (palm removal and destruction) for management of R. cruentatus in Canary Island date palms should be implemented as soon as host leaves droop and weevil frass is observed. Growers and buyers of P. canariensis in regions where R. cruentatus exists should be aware of the potential lethal risk that it poses for this non-native palm. The costs of aggressive phytosanitation at the first symptoms of R. cruentatus infestation and prophylactic pesticide treatment at times of pruning, stress, or transplanting should be factored into the predicted cost of production and maintenance of Canary Island date palms in Florida.
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