RB article about the Red Palm Weevil

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RB article about the Red Palm Weevil

Post by MWP admin » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:55 am

Hi RB,

Congratulations for your article about the RPW. I perfectely agree with what you said, and its a shame we are loosing these Phoenix.

Another similar situation is occuring with the Morus nigra (and eventually Morus alba) I have been surveying some tree this Autumn and I have found very few (less than my fingers) healthy specimens of Morus nigra. The M. alba seems to be less vulnerable so far, but the pathogen may switch host. You could tell that the tree is effecetd because it would have cigarette sized bores in the trunk, some bad ones look as if machine gunned!

However, you are too optimistic about the solution. I think it is near to impossible to control the weevil without natural enemies.

1) There are not enough dedicated people to carry this job.

2) The msin problem is that there are many specimens in the wild which authorities do not have mapped. It will take a huge effort and funds to map ALL Phoenix spp. in Malta (wrt to the wild ones)

3) Then if 2 would been possible, one have to control EACH and EVERY specimen regularly (every month in the peak season?) so that if symptoms are observed, the tree is eridicated. Again this is an unreachable target with the resources that MRAE / MEPA have.

We just have to let nature take its path, and maybe the weevil leaves us naturally and hope it will not switch host and that some birds learn that this new alien species means good food. At least I agree with you that certain specimens in urban areas (Streets, parks, public gardens) should be controlled to reduce the spread.

As a consolation, at least the specimens in Gozo (& Comino?) should be untouched if the weevil cannot fly long distances.


On a good note, this might be looked optimisticly to serve a good lesson for Authorities to control well what it is being imported in our country. The quarantine that the Knights of Saint John introduced is very effective.
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Re: RB article about the Red Palm Weevil

Post by RB » Fri Jan 30, 2009 1:18 pm

MWP admin wrote:We just have to let nature take its path, and maybe the weevil leaves us naturally and hope it will not switch host
Nature has nothing to do with it unfortunately. There is nothing natural about the RPW's presence in Malta, so it has no natural enemies of significance - let alone the fact that it lives mostly safely deep inside the tree. The RPW will only die out when all the palm trees die, (and all other possible hosts) unless controlled/eradicated, however much effort it takes, and if the effort is started promptly.

As for switching host - certainly, Canariensis for one is not its original host in its native habitat, it can attack all palms and also other completely different species, Agave, etc. Very versatile and destructive.

We all know about "nature" and "alien species" - I'm sure you need no education about this :wink:

It's all about the usual Maltese apathy or doing something about a problem, which does not often happen.

Incidentally one of the trees in the pic has been removed, and also other trees are being removed, but the private property issue must be resolved otherwise it's pointless, may as well give up and direct the effort towards painting roundabouts.

RB

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Post by MWP admin » Fri Jan 30, 2009 9:52 pm

My point was that it is quite impossible to eredicate RPW from Malta not becasue of the apathy alone, but because of the lack of data (species mapping, inventory, land ownership database) and lack of qualified(/dedicated?) human resources.

However I wish to hear what would be your action managment Plan to eredicate the RPW from Malta ?

I agree that if at one point in time all diseased trees are destroyed, the problem is controlled, but in my opinion that is not down-to-earth-of-Malta possible...

Nevertheless well done for the article, it was important to be published.
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Post by D. Cilia » Sat Jan 31, 2009 11:36 pm

I saw that letter as well, had no idea it was you RB. Agreed, nothing is natural at all about this pest spreading in the Maltese Islands. Like the Oxalis tragedy it will probably run its course and alter the ecology irreversibly.

I think the RPW should be genetically modified to prefer agave instead :-D

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Post by RB » Sun Feb 01, 2009 2:00 pm

If RPW is NOT eradicated, bye bye all Canariensis, Dactilifera, C Humilis, Washingtonia, and absolutely everything else that even looks like a palm tree. Only when the last one is dead will the RPW be controlled - well thats not strictly true, it will move on...

Palm trees grow slowly and live long. My letter to the times was edited a bit and I wrote that given 60, 70 years, what are the chances of a palm tree encountering an RPW?

Work it out - it starts with a "1" and ends with "00" % So, total eradication of either the RPW or all the palm trees.

If anyone thinks it is impossible to eradicate the RPW then lets save some money and do nothing at all.

Some palm trees are being removed - in fact, the one in the pic "A" has been removed - but 20m away is one in a private garden. And "B" is on the way out, but still standing.

MEPA has no problem with sending people in PRIVATE property to clear scrap vehicles, reduce the heights of rubble walls, remove oil drums, demolish buildings, and 101 other reasons. Getting in there and taking out a palm tree, by comparison, is nothing.

Currently, if you report that you have a dying palm tree, you get told thanks, if you want us to do something you have to pay us... that is absolutely scandalous, it is not the private property owner's fault that the tree was infected but only the sloppy border controls we have, i.e the buck stops with the authorities not the individual whose beautiful tree has been killed because of their shortcomings.

The resultand reaction from property owners (which I have heard first hand) is hell with it they are going to die anyway so let them rot.

By the way - some trees are being removed - the theory is that they are being incinerated - the fact is that many of them are ending up in a quarry in the Buskett/Dingli area (saw them today) so not only are we not helping, but giving the RPW with a purported range of "only" 1km, a free ride to places that it could possibly not reach - another scandalous situation. Hope to have pics this PM.

If anyone wants to help, write, write and write to the newspapers so that maybe someone will get off their fat ass and do something.

RB

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Post by MWP admin » Tue Feb 03, 2009 5:02 pm

FYI, Mepa terrestrial env and inspectorate consists of not more than 10ppl, of which many have degrees/masters and as a consequence they do not do site visits. There is a wrong belief in Malta that everything to do with nature falls in the competancy of MEPA. This issue falls easily in the MRAE (now MRRA) specifically the Plant Health dept, but they might brush it off as they say that we take care only of agricultural diseases. Then there is PARK, but they can also brush it off saying that they take care of parks but not the wild. Same for ELC and a number of Gov. institutions.

However, my point is none of these inst. (with surpluss of EU money or not) know where all the palms are situated (with ref to the wild ones) and so the excercise is somewhat uselss, as if a wild palm is infected, it will infect any other around.

The excercise should consists of monitoring ALL specimens regularly, and exterminate at once (by burning as you said) the diseased ones. I think the authorities also know it is a lost case (remember that there are brave enthomologist working in these institutions) and there is not much to do, though controlling those reachable palms in the urban does much good than any harm.

It was shocking to read what you witnessed re managment of diseased specimens. Vera pajjiz tal-dahq!
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Post by IL-PINE » Thu Feb 05, 2009 9:28 am

well prosit about the article, its a bit depressing reading about malta hux!

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Circular

Post by MWP admin » Thu Feb 05, 2009 4:58 pm

Well as I said this issue falls under MRRA (Plant Health) not MEPA and they have recently released a circular with regards RPW. There is a dedicated email where one can inform a diseased specimen for action to be taken.

The email is:
plantquarantine@gov.mt

Telephones:
23397100 / 222/ 223

Check the pdf
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RPW.pdf
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Post by RB » Fri Feb 06, 2009 10:52 am

Nothing to do with Mepa, the example was that govt entities can ignore private property issues in other cases.

You sure can report infected trees but nowt will happen unless they are on Govt land - and even then, don't expect them to come with sirens blaring.

If you want action, the best way is to show mounting public concern, and embarrass them into action - by writing to the newspapers. Sending an e-mail or submitting a form on their website, as I have done many a time, simply adds to the e-mail queue, fullstop. Not that you should not do this, but in itself, not enough.

I have found RPW's in backyards in Mosta (5 in one!!) and also found them on rooftops in Sliema. Take a look on your roof - you may get "lucky"... there are quite a few dead/dying palms in Mriehel!

RB

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Post by robcar » Fri Feb 13, 2009 5:02 pm

"Almost 200 palm trees had to be uprooted last year after falling victim to the dreaded red palm weevil, and the government has pledged €300,000 to help remove infected trees.

Another 60 trees remained infected and were waiting to be removed, Palm Health Department director Marica Gatt said, adding that last year the department received 500 calls to register suspicious infections"

Part of a news conference quoted in the Times Feb 7

May I ask if the weevils in the 60 infected trees are also "waiting to be removed" or are they infecting other trees? The whole issue has been mishandled from day 1 when this pesr first appeared on our islands.

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Post by MWP admin » Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:43 pm

I find it awful and without sense that imports from EU states are not checked for disease (or that was what I was told :roll: ).

At least, MRRA are trying to built an inventory of Palm species in private property by asking citizens to register their palms specimens. The wild ones are however not mapped. Weevils can spread from infected wild specimens to urban ones, so the problem is quite complex. Saying that however, I think that I rarely have see n wild Phoenix specimens diseased. Do you share this observation?

Not the same can be said for Morus nigra though.
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