Spain’s palm tree trimmers

Far from being taken for granted, palm trees are an essential part of the Marbella charm. These majestic beauties bring on the excitement of exotic holidays in the sun. But what if they became raggedy, husk-ridden giants because no-one got around to pruning them each year? Or, worse still, what if they got eaten away by deadly parasites and ceased to even exist?

Pruning your palm trees

By this we don’t mean lopping off their tops; but rather cutting off the dried, dead fronds that accumulate along the trunk and up towards the crown of newer green leaves.

Every time you see a tidy palm tree, be aware that each year someone has climbed the tree with great skill to cut every husk away painstakingly to create the beautiful sight you see. Often the president of your community will make sure that this is done and paid for with community fees. If you have to foot the bill yourself, a quick online search will reveal experts to keep your palm trees in trim. It can get costly, so make sure you shop around for the best prices, which should include removing all the dead fronds from your garden.

The Spanish invasion

The invasion of palm weevils (aka Egyptian palm beetles) began in 1994. These hungry little critters made their entry via diseased palms imported from Egypt. Infestation quickly set in: One beetle lays around 200 eggs every ten weeks, producing grubs that spend about a month devouring the insides of a palm tree before making their exit from the trunk via a small tunnel. They then form a cocoon at the base of the tree before growing into adult beetles, each one being ready to reproduce.

How to detect palm weevils and beetles

Look for crawling weevils around the base of the tree and on its leaves as well as dying fronds at the top of the tree. The grubs also give themselves away by crunching noisily as they eat their way through the tree trunk. Look out for chewed wood and a thick, smelly liquid emerging from holes.

How to save your palms and when it’s too late

Move fast: If you have injected insecticides into the trunk in time to affect recently laid or hatched eggs, you have a chance of combatting them.

But if you can hear grubs already chomping through the trunk, you’ll need to examine how much of the soft core they have already eaten through. Obviously a legion of two or three hundred grubs all chewing a tunnel up to a metre long will soon take a palm tree to the limit. Once a palm tree is unable to draw up moisture and nutrients from the roots to the crown of the palm, it is destined to defeat.

Which palms are affected?

Weevils’ meals of choice tend to be recently planted or badly pruned Canary Island palms (Phoenix Canariensis) and coco palms (Phoenix Dactylifera). However, don’t be surprised if they eat up your Washingtonias too if they can’t find their favourites. The good news is that dwarf native palms (Chamaerops Humilis) seem to be off the menu for weevils, and if you or your community take care of your palm trees and hire a professional trimmer to keep it looking tidy, he will be able to detect and treat the trees before the situation gets out of hand.