Its time to deal with the Palm Weevil before it gets your trees

When I told Cruella (my wife) that I had to urgently deal with the Red Palm Weevil, she just curled her lip and scornfully replied “it’s only a bloody beetle get over it”. I hope this conveys some of the pressure I face on a daily basis. I would leave her but she is holding the garden ransom, and on a number of occasions she has threatened to curse the ground so nothing grows. All of this may seem strange especially as she is our local Church Warden, but I think she is working undercover.

4th May 2022. Things I have been doing lately:

Dealing with Palm weevils. First some background. The red palm weevil first arrived in Spain in 1994 probably in a cargo of trees from Egypt. Since then it has rapidly infested Spanish Phoenix palms. At the moment it appears not to attack Washingtonia palms in Spain but it has been known to do so elsewhere. In the main it will attack trees under 20 years old but not exclusively.

The adults will cause a certain amount of damage by feeding, but the main damage is caused by the larvae. The adult female lays up to 200 eggs at the base of the fronds in the crown of the tree. When these hatch, they merrily munch their way up the inside of the fronds, eventually resulting in the fronds collapsing and the tree dying. In a severe infestation you can put your ear to the trunk of the tree and hear the grubs feeding. The first photo below shows the enemy. The second shows some of my palm trees and explains why I need to be careful.

The Palm Weevil in my palm, but not the tree.
Note that my trees are neatly trimmed, but only cut in winter when the weevil is not around

Preventative treatment for palm weevil. When you first arrive in Spain, no matter how good a gardener you are, you are not prepared for the palm weevil as we do not experience it in Northern European. When you lose a palm you are distraught, so it is important to act quickly. If the tree is relatively low, or you can reach the crown with a short ladder, then you can spray the crown and this should act as a preventative.

If the tree is large then you need to either bring in professional sprayers every couple of months, or devise a method that can deliver chemicals directly to the crown of the tree. I have devised and revised a method over the years that works for me, so please feel free to copy the system described below.

Preparing the palms. At its simplest this process seeks to deliver the chemicals into the trunk of the palm which the rising sap will then take up to the crown of the tree and infuse the fronds with weevil killing chemicals. Over the years I have refined and revised my methods. But at the heart of the process is to drill a hole at a 30 degree angle half way into the trunk round about a metre from the ground. You then need to insert a piece of simple irrigation pipe into the hole. The hole and the tube is at this angle because you don’t want the chemical dribbling out and also you want to keep a gravitational pull on the chemicals so that they constantly feed into the tree. (I hope that doesn’t sound complicated, as it is not).

The first photo shows a simple perforated tube inserted into the trunk which could be topped up each month. The next photo shows my new deluxe minimalist weevil killer (top of the range). This has a short piece of tubing just to fit into the tree (this version stops the perforations clogging up). Note that each version has a cap at the end, this is to stop anything else getting into the tree. Make your own one up or just stick a bit of rag in there. The final photo shows the weevil system in place. You can see from the angle of the cap that the liquid is always being forced into the tree by gravity. Click on each photo for a larger view.

The equipment. All the equipment is very cheap and can be bought in any local gardening store. The photos below shows the basic equipment and mixing method which is simple. Click on each photo for a larger view.

  • a proprietary weevil killing chemical that can be diluted
  • a measuring jug to make sure you get the right amount of water (in my case 1 litre)
  • a garden syringe to measure out the chemical before adding it to the water
  • an old Fairy Liquid bottle needed to squirt the chemicals into the tree

The process. Once you have mixed your chemicals, then how you use them depends on the palm size. The first photo shows my trusty Fairy Liquid bottle being used to squirt liquid into the trunk. This method is used for high trees where you cannot get to the top.

The second photo is the method used for small trees. Just use your Fairy Liquid bottle (other brands are available) to squirt the chemicals on to the base of the palm fronds. This will act as a deterrent to the adult weevils.

The final photo is the process for those trees that are just a bit too big to get at easily. You could get a ladder out, but if you can’t be bothered. Just squirt the chemicals up into the base of the fronds. Don’t do this on a windy day and if possible wear a mask. Many a day I have weevil proofed myself and it doesn’t taste nice.

Don’t despair if you lose a palm. I lost two palms when I first arrived in Spain and I was of course upset. The thing to do is don’t just chop the tree down and leave an unsightly trunk shaped root sticking up in your garden. Nor should you try and make a table out of the palm by chopping it back and placing a table top on it. The resulting table will never be in the right place and you will eventually abandon it.

Instead, what I did was to get the palm chopped back to about 12ft. I then wrapped mesh around the trunk and grew climbers up its length. This gives a spectacular display of flowers all summer and is a joy to behold. The photo below shows my dead palm tree brought back to life.

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

3 thoughts on “Its time to deal with the Palm Weevil before it gets your trees”

  1. James, thanks for a most interesting article. I think we have a number of different palms in our garden – do they all need treated or does the weevil only attack specific species? Thanks, Tony

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    1. Hi, Generally the Palm Weevil in Spain only attacks the Phoenix Palm. This is the palm with the long branches with fronds running up the side. Very rarely does it attack the other common Spanish Palm the Washingtonia; this is the one with branches that have fronds arrayed at the end of each branch. If you have Phoenix palms then you definitely need to begin a programme of protection during the summer months. The adult weevil only flys from around April to about October, so this is the period when you need to treat your trees once a month. It is not particularly onerous, and will save your palms. Enjoy your gardening.

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  2. JamesIs there anything that attacks Pine trees would pay good money for a bag of those. Urgently needed in Pinar.All the bestGordonSent from my Galaxy

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