Pasini e Rumine - Ecology and management of the red palm weevil

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Carlo Pasini1 e Pietro Rumine 2
1già Dirigente di ricerca al CRA-FSO di Sanremo 2già Primo ricercatore al CRA-ABP di Firenze

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Key words: Rhynchophorus fer rugineus, Arecaceae, detection, monitoring, chemical and biological control.

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Abstract

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Among exotic pests, the red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, is the most destructive insect of ornamental palm species in Italy, especially of Phoenix canariensis. Since it was first found in Italy in 2004, the red palm weevil has quickly spread to many regions causing the death of plants on public and private gardens, green spaces and historic villas, transforming the image of urban landscapes and coastal cities. Today, it is estimated that about two hundred thousand palms are infested, but the number is difficult to quantify because many owners do not declare the presence of attacked plants to the authorities. Several control methods against the red palm weevil have been applied, within an integrated pest management strategy, provided by the National Action Plan of the Central Phytosanitary Service to fight the introduction and spread of R. ferrugineus. The main direct measures of pest control consist of cutting down and chipping the infested palms, treating the plants with insecticides by foliar sprays and/or trunk injections. The pesticides authorized for palms against R. ferrugineus are Imidicloprid+Cyfluthrin, Abamectin and Chlorpyirifos metyil. As an alternative to chemical control it is possible to use commercial products containing nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae, the use of which is preferred in urban areas. Additionally, some entomopathogenic fungal strains (Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae) are being tested in semi-field conditions. These indirect measures are designed to increase cooperation between citizens, municipalities and local Phytosanitary Services, as well as enhance the professional training of those involved. This article is a review of various aspects of R. ferrugineus namely its life cycle, damage caused and symptoms of attack, host range, relevant national and European legislation, management of red palm weevil and its main components. The main preventive and curative strategies are reported including early detection using different methods: pheromone trapping systems, tree surgery method based on spherical pruning, control of pest using available chemical and biological products, and male pest sterilization technique. The management of R. ferrugineus is complex because at the moment none of the containment methods used seem to be able to limit the spread of this pest.

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