In Focus: Italian Countryside Ravaged by Beetles

Beetles in Italian Countryside

Red Palm Weevil Invades Southern Italy - Photo by Giulianat

Italy – In sleepy Italian villages, up and down the coast line, a scourge is fast spreading across the countryside.

The large Red Palm weevil of Asia has arrived in southern Italy, and has destroyed an estimated 13,000 palms in southern italy, and is slowly pushing its way north, approaching the French border.

Red Palm Beetle

The Rhynchophorus Ferrugineus or il punteruolo rosso

Part of what makes the infestation so serious, is that there is of yet, no proven effective way of combating the bugs. Chemicals cannot be used as most of the infestations are near the beaches and in resorts.

Scientists are experimenting with traps laced with pheromones, but the traps are deemed to expensive to be a realistic option.

Conservationists are calling the infestation a national emergency. The bug is native to Asian, but soon crossed into the Middle East as infective palm trees were exported. From there, North Africa became affective, and now, the Italian Riviera.

“We humans have created a situation of excesses artificiality, so it’s difficult to resolve problems that we ourselves have created.”

Visible damage is nowhere as apparent as it is in Rome’s historic, Villa Lazzaroni, along with Via Appia Nuova, where half the trees have already been lost. In Africa, the bugs have spread to date palm trees, devastating those harvests.

“The weevil gets right into the heart of the tree, so by the time the damage becomes apparent on the outside, it’s already too late,” says Valeria Francardi, an entomologist.

The only solution proven viable is to chop down the trees that become infective, hoping the weevils aren’t able to spread to the surrounding trees.

With neither the bug or the palm trees indigenous to Italy to begin with, some have mixed feelings on the matter. While the dead and dying trees are certainly an eyesore, some speculate if we aren’t fighting a losing battle.

“The scientific community will try to save this palm, but the war is like David and Goliath,” says Valeria Francatti, and entomologist fighting the scourge, “We humans have created a situation of excesses artificiality, so it’s difficult to resolve problems that we ourselves have created.”

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