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The Evil Weevil

| Katharine Doré

 

Ligurian Mountains

 

As the temperature soars Italy’s beaches become jammed with holiday makers but along the Ligurian coast the summer sunsets are totally incredible.

It is high summer here in Liguria and I like to spend the hottest of days up in the mountains where the air is fresh and the mountain streams bring releif to the dogs from the hot, hot weather.

 Dog Drinking

At our olive groves in Bestagno’s hills it is time to keep a sharp eye out for signs of the evil olive fly that can devestate the crop within a matter of days.

Bestagno Trees

Here at Bestagno we only use an organic compound to deter the pesky fly and whilst it is not, I admit, as effective as the chemical option, it means that there is no risk of chemical residue being left in the oil as the organic compound is simply washed off the fruits before they are milled.

Bestagno Olives

For me using the organic alternative is a risk worth taking as purity and taste are my absolute priority for the oil and organic controls and fertilizers are the only option for our land.

In the six years we have lived here I have only used a poison once. It was something I had pledged never to do but the alternative was too great a sacrifice.

All along the Mediterranean coast and as I understand it on the Adriatic coast too our palm trees are under attack from the Red Palm Weevil.

 

Palm Tree from House

This ghastly bug infests a palm tree to lay its eggs in the crown and can tunnel its way into the centre of the tree sometimes even reaching the base of the trunk. One weevil can lay up to two hundred eggs every ten weeks. Unchecked infestation means the certain death of the tree and the bitter truth is that once the signs are visible it is often too late.

Our palms are the glory of our garden having been planted by a previous owner of this house over 100 years ago.

I heard their story shortly after we moved in and was amazed to hear that one of the trees was planted to celebrate the birth of the family’s 23 child! Once I had found out their story I had some signs made so their history would never be forgotten.

Palm Tree Sign 1  Palm Tree Sign 2

From the windows at the top of the house I can look straight into the crown of the palms and keep an eye on all of the birds who have made them their home over the years we have lived here.

Palms need to be trimmed every year to get rid of old flowers and all of the twigs and nesting materials the birds take up there during the course of the year.

From the day we bought the house I have been the protector of these mighty and venerable palms.

My first phone call after the purchase was complete was to the local palm specialist with instructions to remove all of the ivy and detritus that had grown up over them in the years the house had been abandoned and for them to be trimmed and checked for any disease or pest.

Palm Tree Before  Palm Tree Now

Over the years I have cared and loved these trees. I have enjoyed seeing generations of birds hatch in nests built deep into their canopies and have worried about the growing numbers of palms along our coast that are dying from the Red Palm Weevil.

I hoped being higher up in the hills where there are few palms and by using the available organic treatment  - a  compound to prevent infestation rather than to kill the weevils upon infection – our trees would be safe.

But last February just four days before the 100th anniversary of the planting of one of the trees, I noticed a slight sag in its leaves.

Palm Tree Close Up 

Just a slight change but enough to set alarm bells ringing and for me to send for the palm specialist.  And there they were.  Larvae of the Red Palm Weevil. 

Red Palm Weevil

As the leaves were shorn off I did not need the consequences explaining to me. The only hope was that the infestation was not bad enough for the critical cells of the crown to have been eaten.

Palm Tree Leaves

Luckily I had spotted it in time and once Luigi could inspect the crown he gave me the thumbs up. The weevils had taken out a lot of the leaves but the crown was not damaged  - the tree would live.

Luigi on Plam Tree

But then the choice had to be made – to use a chemical to kill any larvae that had burrowed into the trunk or to stay chemical free and take the risk of leaving larvae deep inside the tree.

Palm Tree Today

Five months on and the new growth is well established.

I love these trees so much I went for the chemical option which is a decision I still struggle with but the alterative of losing the tree was just too great a sacrifice.

 

Katharine
Nudo & Bestagno Farm Owner

 

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