The red palm weevil, an insect that is a mortal danger to palm trees, has infested private gardens in Tel Aviv and killed palm trees on streets near Kikar Hamedina in recent weeks. Aside from the harm done to trees, there is a risk of people being hurt by falling trees or branches.
Despite the risks, the Tel Aviv municipality has decided to battle the bug only in public spaces, leaving residents to deal with infestations in private gardens on their own. According to Zohar Burstein, owner of the Doctor Tzemah gardening company who has lobbied the city on the subject, the cost of exterminating the pests is going to deter individuals or house committees from dealing with them. If the city doesn’t deal with the problem, there are going to be mass deaths of palm trees in the city within two years, Burstein said.
The red palm weevil came to Israel from the Far East. It lays its eggs on palm leaves and the larvae that result burrow into the tree trunk and eat through to the crown, until the tree collapses. The weevil’s primary target is the Canary date palm, which is common in many cities, including Tel Aviv.
The Agriculture Ministry issued a warning about the consequences of the palm weevil’s presence in Israel two years ago. “There are cities in Israel where trees could fall on passersby at any moment,” the ministry wrote at the time.
An examination conducted by Burstein showed that the palm weevil has already done serious damage to some Tel Aviv palm trees; in recent days he has discovered trees that are essentially dead, even if they are still standing. The best way to block the pest from spreading is by spraying the top of the tree, at the spots where the palm fronds emerge from the trunk.
“The matter of Tel Aviv is known to us," the Agriculture Ministry said yesterday. "The ministry acts as a consultant and guide on how to deal with agricultural problems, including the palm weevil. Responsibility for administering treatment lies with the local authorities.”
Shmuel Kachelnik, head of Tel Aviv’s urban improvement department, said that trees in public areas have been sprayed, and the municipality has warned residents of the danger lurking in private gardens. “It’s the responsibility of every resident to deal with this problem, just as with a sewage or electricity problem,” he said.
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