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Red Palm Weevil

Key facts on Red Palm Weevil (RPW)

  • RPW is one of the world’s major invasive pest species and is the single most destructive pest of some 40 palm species worldwide.
  • RPW was detected in the Gulf region during the mid-eighties. Over the last three decades the weevil has spread rapidly through the Middle East and North Africa, affecting almost every country in the region. In total, it has now been detected in more than 60 countries including France, Greece, Italy, Spain and parts of the Caribbean and Central America.  
  • Palm trees are an important resource for many communities in the Middle East and North Africa. Dates have been a basic food staple for centuries, and are now an important economic crop.
  • More than seven million tonnes of dates are produced annually. In total, around 100 million date palm trees are cultivated today, 60 percent of them in Arab countries.
  • RPW attacks young, soft trees that are less than 20 years old. Around half of the 100 million date palm trees fit these criteria and are therefore vulnerable.
  • RPW has significant socio-economic impact on the date palm production sector and livelihoods of farmers in affected areas. The weevil causes economic losses in the millions of dollars annually, whether through lost production or pest-control costs.
  • In Gulf countries and the Middle East,$8 million is lost each year through removal of severely-infested trees alone. In Italy, Spain and France, the combined cost of pest management, eradication and replacement of infested palms, and loss of benefits was around €90 million by 2013. This cost is forecast to increase to €200 million by 2023 if a rigorous containment program is not in place.  
  • RPW is extremely difficult to detect in the early stages of an infestation because there are few externally-visible signs that the pest has taken over a tree: around 80 percent of the pest's life-cycle is hidden from view. For extremely tall species, an infestation in the crown of the tree is even harder to detect. Once an infestation has taken hold it is too late to save the tree.
  • Integrated pest control methods such as the targeted and reduced use of insecticides and bio-pesticides, low-cost, highly-sensitive microphones that can detect larvae feeding inside a tree, pheromone-based traps, drones, remote-sensing, and sniffer dogs are essential to contain the pest’s spread.