The Palm's Mortal Enemy Is Devouring California's Fronded Icons

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©. The South American palm weevil pupa gestates in a cocoon. (Josh Cassidy/KQED)

With a taste for palm hearts and up for battle, the invasive weevil has invaded So Cal and appears eager to spread.

On the one hand, you can't blame them. The South American palm weevil is just doing what any species does: Trying to survive. But unfortunately for California’s palm trees, survival for the weevil means death to the trees.

With the recent arrival to The States from origins south, the shiny black beetle with a Pinocchio nose has descended upon – and into – dozens of palms in San Diego’s Sweetwater Summit Regional Park. Finding their way into the heart of the tree, mama weevils deposit their eggs, which magically transform into very hungry larvae – which hollow out the tree before maturing into grown-ups and heading out in search of a new tree to call home. Left only half alive, the palm wilts and is unable to regain its former form.

Palm weevil

© Josh Cassidy/KQED

So far more than 50 trees are confirmed to have their tender cores compromised by the alien species; across the area the number may be closer to 150. And while the stalwart weevils are vulnerable to pesticide, the ninja insects are nearly impossible to find until the damage has been done.

The latest KQED San Francisco DEEP LOOK video takes a, yes, deep look into the heart of the palm to show us what the bloody mess of it all looks like – it’s not for the faint of heart! But it’s important. This outbreak likely marks the leading edge of a march by the weevil to points farther north, with California’s iconic palms serving as B & Bs for the pest to hopscotch its way through the state.