This rather handsome gentleman, a red palm weevil (RPW; aka Rhynchophorus ferrugineus), has worn out his welcome in California and has been declared eradicated. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced on January 18 the elimination of RPW from the Laguna Beach area of Orange County.

Rhynochophorus ferrugineus, otherwise known as red palm weevilPhoto courtesy of John Kabashima, UC Cooperative Extension; Bugwood.org 

The weevil was first detected in the U.S. in October 2010 in the stump of a Canary Island date palm tree located in a residential area of Laguna Beach. The poor li’l guy was quite nearly dead (and, in fact, did not survive), but he was accompanied by several other adult weevils as well as weevil larvae. Delimitation and visual surveys were implemented by APHIS and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to determine whether friends and relatives had spread to the surrounding area. Several damaged palms were removed in the process.

Following a three-year period during which the area was confirmed to be free from RPW detections (according to an international standard dictated by the European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization), APHIS was able to declare the area red palm weevil-free. The last confirmed detection of RPW occurred on January 18, 2012.

Red palm weevils are large, growing to about 1.5 inches long, each with a distinctive, slender rostrum, or snout. Coloration is varied, leading often to misidentification. The Laguna Beach weevils displayed a bright red stripe on brown or black bodies. Should be easy to spot.

They’re native to Southeast Asia and have been spotted in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Oceania and Aruba. The only known siting in the U.S. was in Laguna Beach. Red palm weevil is considered to be the most damaging insect pest of palms in the world, and while normally attracted to unhealthy specimens, this pest will also feed on healthy palms. According to the University of California’s Center for Invasive Species Research, ornamental palm tree sales in California are estimated at $70 million annually, with Florida’s sales reaching $127 million per year.