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Palms in Larnaca Cyprus

Palm trees in Cyprus

are dying at an alarming rate due to a persistent pest.

Tens of thousands of palms in Cyprus have now been killed by a prolific beetle, the red palm weevil, Marios Vassiliou, course leader at the agriculture school at UCLan Cyprus IPS, told the Sunday Mail.

In the past two to three years, he added, there have been fewer incidents, simply because the insect is running out of its favourite food. The weevil prefers to feed on two types of date palms, phoenix canariensis and phoenix dactylifera, both of which are common in Cyprus.

An added danger, Vassiliou pointed out, is that when the insects have finished eating these, they will feed on the rest of the palms in Cyprus, such as the Washingtonia, planted in 1922 and which gave Larnaca’s central coastal area the name “Phinikoudes”.

But the Phinikoudes area is not the only place to worry about.

Palm trees are important in Cyprus, both for locals and tourists.

Not a native species, they have acclimatised well over many years. In urban areas, they are planted to adorn public and private buildings and some palms have been around for a long time.

“Palm trees aged over 100 years old, which adorn old buildings, are of particular cultural, historical and aesthetic value,” said a recent ministry of agriculture report. “Therefore, the protection of such palm trees but also, more generally, all palm trees found in gardens, parks, urban green areas, pavements etc. is important for maintaining the Mediterranean identity of the landscape of the island.”

Being expensive, they are also associated with wealth and are planted in gardens as a status symbol.

Outside urban areas, they are not of much agricultural commercial importance, but are often found in the grounds of hotels. Guests from colder climates associate them with exotic and tropical places in the sun and identity them with a typical Mediterranean landscape.

Thus their continuous destruction by the red palm weevil is a source of concern to many on the island. This small beetle has been around for only nine years, but has already killed many different kinds of palm trees in Cyprus.

The transport of trees across countries is the cause of the rapid spread of the red weevil palm pest all over the Mediterranean.

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