Palm trees across the country could “fall on pedestrians at any minute” the Agriculture Ministry warned Wednesday, asking the public to help find the culprits behind the hazard — a dangerous variety of tree-eating beetle.
The red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, invaded the Middle East region from the Far East. It eats palm trees from the inside until they eventually can no longer support themselves and topple over, the announcement said.
Trees have already fallen as a result of the beetle’s destructive feeding, the ministry said, “including ones at the entrance to malls and other populated areas.”
Public awareness could help diagnose a beetle infestation at its early stages and prevent trees from falling over, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir said.
The beetle (pictured) is brown with a prolonged proboscis, and can reach a length of 3.5 centimeters (1.3 inches). Experts consider it to be one of the most dangerous pests for palm trees, especially because the damage is usually visible only when it’s too late.
Some cities are more likely than others to host the beetle, the ministry said. “Haifa, Nahariya, Acre, Kiryat Shmona, Kiryat Tivon and the Hula Valley are in real danger,” it said, and anywhere north of Hadera was of concern, as were some places around the Gaza Strip.
It’s only a matter of time until someone is hurt, the ministry said in a statement, adding that it was ”no laughing matter.”