24.02.2012 0

Provence & Côte d'Azur: War against weevils heats up

Nice Côte d'Azur launches spring assault on weevils

Deputy Mayor of Nice, Benoit Kandel, has again urged residents of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region to join the fight against the red palm weevil that is systematically destroying palm trees throughout the Riviera.

Often not noticeable until too late, the red palm weevil is threatening the Riviera's iconic palm trees

The red palm weevil originates from Malaysia and is believed to have travelled through India and Egypt before infecting the Alpes-Maritimes in 2009. Fighting the insect has become a main concern for Kandel who fears that the iconic palm tree, a symbol of the city of Nice, could be wiped out as infection spreads.

Speaking at a press conference dedicated to the spring 2012 offensive against the insects, Kandel said, "It is essential for everyone to get behind us and help rid us of this infestation."

He added that the weevil, which has spread along the coast infecting the whole of the PACA region as well as Languedoc-Roussillon and Corsica, is no longer just a concern for the Riviera. "This is something that will affect the entire Mediterranean, and could wipe out all of our palm trees," Kandel told The Riviera Times as he revealed his plans to get EUROMED involved in the campaign.

One person who has become involved in the fight against the bugs is Grasse prosecutor Thierry Bonifay. As the war against weevils develops into a legal matter (Kandel has campaigned for help from the European Union), Bonifay has been informing palm tree owners of their responsibilities in regards to testing and treating palm trees that grow within a 200 metre radius of their homes. While paying for infected trees to be treated could cost owners up to 2,000 euros per tree, the reprecussions for ignoring the issue could lead to 30,000 euros in fines and six months in prison.

Nice Côte d'Azur is currently trialing a number of methods to treat infected trees. While chemical spraying is proving to be the most effective method, scientists are concerned by the impact the chemicals may be having on the environment. As chemical spraying is still in the early stages of being experimented with, the effects are unknown and ecologists fear that the chemicals might have a detrimental effect on wildlife and water supplies.

One potential treatment could be the innovative use of mushrooms to treat infected trees. Scientists have discovered that the beauveria bassiana mushroom, which is far more eco-friendly than chemical spraying, has the ability to stop the red palm weevil larva from hatching. It is hoped that this could prove to be a safer and more cost effective way of treatment.

With over 70,000 palm trees dotted along the Côte d'Azur, the problem is large scale and widespread. While Antibes and Vallauris have been the most heavily affected by the crisis, results show that the red palm weevil is steadily making its way through the region and crossing the border into neighbouring Italy.

Elsa Carpenter

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