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Weevil Borers & Leaf Beetles in Palms

Weevil Borers & Leaf Beetles in Palms

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Published by: draculavanhelsing on Jul 29, 2012
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© NIAA 1998 The Nursery Papers Issue no 1998/02 Page
Getting control of weevil borersand leaf beetles in palms
sugar cane weevil borer
, the
palm weevil borer
and the
palm leaf beetle
are allserious pests of palms, making nursery stock unsaleable, killing mature urban specimens andcausing a loss of public confidence in palms in public and private landscaping. They are provinga serious problem to palm growers in Queensland and possibly in NSW, WA and NT. Controlmeasures in nurseries include strict quarantine, frequent stock checks, good hygiene andregular spraying.
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What are these insects and why are theya pest ?
a. Sugarcane weevil borer
Rhabdoscelus obscurus 
dult females bore into the outer layer of matur-ing palm tree stems and leaf bases and lay theireggs in a small cavity. In young palms, the lar-vae eat their way through the central portion of thestem, destroying the plants. They have been observedkilling seedling plants in 140 mm pots.In older palms they mine the thicker leaf bases aswell as extending for a short distance into the trunk.Older palms are disfigured by the emergence holesmade by the weevils, and also by trunk splitting, mak-ing them unsaleable. Heavy infestations may weakenthe trunk sufficiently for the tree to collapse and die,with damage occurring mostly up to 1 metre aboveground.
b. Palm weevil borer
Diocalandra frumenti 
The larvae feed on all parts of the palm, especiallyroots, leaves and fruit stalks, causing premature fruitfall. Leaf bases are bored from the trunk out to theleaflets and the trunk may also be bored. Severe dam-age may cause the death of the tree. Damage to palmcrowns by both sugar cane weevil borer and palmweevil borer have been recorded.
c. Palm leaf beetle
Brontispa longissim
First evidence of this pest occurred in Darwin in 1979;it has since moved eastwards to Cairns and Cooktownand has now been found as far south as Innisfail. Atthe moment its’ progress is checked by quarantine re-strictions in far north Queensland. The beetle is spe-cific to palms; adults and larvae live in the palm spearand feed on young leaflets. Larvae chew off large areasof the inner surface of unopenedleaflets causing the underlyingcells to die.
: Larvae of sugar cane weevil borer 
Adult sugar cane weevil borer 
The Nursery Papers Issue no 1998/02 — © NIAA 1998
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How can you identify the problem ?
Sugar cane weevil borer
infestation can be recognisedby a jelly-like substance oozing from holes in leaf basesand splitting of the trunk at or near the base. Stainingof the trunk also occurs, especially if a large larvalpopulation is present. Adults are approximately 10mmlong and 3.5 mm wide and vary in colour from tan toalmost black, with about 6 distinct patterns of lightand dark markings on the wing covers.
Palm weevil borer
infestation can be recognised by theemergence holes on new and old fronds and leaf basesas well as yellowing of fronds as larvae eat away leaf tissue. Adults are small weevils, about 6 - 8 mm long,blackish and shiny, with four large reddish spots onthe forewings.
Palm leaf beetle infestation
causes leaves to developa scorched appearance as they turn brown, shrivel andcurl. Narrow, linear chew marks are characteristic of adult feeding. Best time to observe damage is in thenorthern dry season when palms are growing slowly.The adult beetle is about 10 mm long and 2.5mmacross with a flattened appearance. The rear of the wingcover is black and the front is orange. It can be easilyconfused with the native palm beetle
Plesispa spp
which don’t have orange on the wing covers. Unlikemost ‘grubs’ the larvae don’t curl up, and have a pairof hook-like extensions at one end.
How widespread are they ?
Sugar cane weevil borer and palm weevil borer haveboth been reported as far south as the Queensland-NSW border. Both palm weevil borer and palm leaf beetle are found in the Northern Territory and palm leaf beetle is also found in the north of Western Australia.Nursery infestation by any of these three pests ismost likely to be caused by infested plants brought infrom outside, or possibly from adjacent infested palmplantings in the landscape. Palm nurseries in sugarcane growing areas are particularly vulnerable to in-festation by sugar cane weevil borer.
What palms are affected ?
Most of the palm species commonly grown in Aus-tralian nurseries are recorded hosts of 
sugar caneweevil borer
. They include:
 Archontophoenix alexandrae
A. cunninghamianaCaryota urensCocos nuciferaPritchardia martiiPtychosperma elegans Roystonea regiaSabal palmetto Ravenala madagascariensisPhoenix canariensis Hyophorbe lagenicaulis Dypsis lutescens (syn. Chrysalidocarpus lutescens) Neodypsis decaryiCarpentaria acuminata Normanbya normanbyiWodyetia bifurcata Dictyosperma albumSyagrus romanzoffiana Licuala spp.
Infestations of 
palm weevil borer
have beenrecorded on:
Phoenix canariensis
(causing the death of maturespecimens)
Phoenix roebelenii Archontophoenix alexandraeCocos nucifera Dypsis lutescens Dypsis lucebensis Howea belmoreana.
Palm leaf beetle larva and adult
: Adult palm leaf beetleon palm leaflet
© NIAA 1998 The Nursery Papers Issue no 1998/02 Page
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Coconut palm is the usual host of 
palm leaf bee-tle
but it has also been recorded on 27 native and ex-otic palm species in Australia, including
W. birfurcata.
Control measures
The Queensland DPI recommends the following con-trol measures to growers. Chemical registrations varybetween states.
Warning: Always read the label before using anyinsecticide.
Keith Halfpapp of QDPI, Mareeba, inspects young palms for sugar cane weevil borer infestation
Remove and destroy old and dead fronds be-cause adult beetles hide behind the leaf basesduring the day.Protect cut surfaces by painting with an acrylicpaint. This reduces their attractiveness toweevils.Do not neglect your mature showcase speci-mens on the nursery. These need to bechecked regularly and treated if required.
Chemical Control
Sugar cane weevil borer
; use a chlopyrifos insecticidewith 500g per L of active ingredient. 5 ml of insecti-cide per L for seedlings and small plants. 10 ml of in-secticide per L for larger plants (Brough et al, 1994).Spray to the point of run-off and ensure that the in-secticide coverage is thorough enough to find its waybehind leaf bases. Also spray the ground around thebase of the palm. Spray twice, one month apart, duringthe period March-April, July-August and December-January when weevils are most active.
Palm weevil borer
; As yet no registered chemical.
Palm leaf beetle
; use carbaryl at 1.25g of 80% wettablepowder per L of water. Add an agricultural wettingagent (such as Agral) at the recommended rate to thediluted spray to improve coverage and penetration(Brough et al, 1994). Two applications are needed, oneweek apart.Spray on to leaves which have not completelyopened, covering both leaf spaces and penetrating thespaces between leaflets. If necessary slightly opentightly folded leaves to allow spray penetration, grasp-ing the spear leaf approximately 600 mm above its base,gently twisting and bending so that the leaflets sepa-rate. Do not apply during flowering as carbaryl is toxicto bees.
Biological control
A Qld DPI/QNIA program has been initiated to finda biological control for palm leaf beetle using theparasitoid
Tetrastichus brontispae
, which has provedsuccessful in decreasing palm leaf beetle numbers inNew Caledonia, Tahiti, the Solomon Islands andDarwin (Fenner, 1984).Results to date show that the parasite had beenestablished at Cooktown and several locations inCairns. The next step in this project is to establish theextent of parasite distribution, how far south the bee-tle has spread, and how far south it is likely to be ableto survive.
Cultural Controls
Do not sell infested plants and destroy anywhich are heavily infested. All plants leavingand entering a nursery should be checked forobvious signs of infestation. If evidence of palm leaf beetle is found, growers should no-tify the Qld DPI or your local department of agriculture.Do not use bagasse in a potting medium oras mulch around the base of potted oringround trees, as female cane borer weevilsare attracted to this material.

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