ABU DHABI // Having already experimented with sending dogs to chase out the dreaded red palm weevil, the Ministry of Environment and Water is now stepping up its battle against the pests with an intensive three-year campaign. The beetle-like invaders are a threat to date palm plantations, as they burrow into the trunks of the trees and gradually kill the plants. Sultan Abdullah Alwan, the acting executive director for agriculture and animals at the ministry, told the state news agency, WAM, that the anti-weevils operation was being rolled out to bolster food security.
"A general strategy has been chalked out, under which integrated pest management techniques will be used in a way that produces greater efficiency in fighting against targeted pests to protect date palm trees," he said. Saeed al Bagham, the co-ordinator of the campaign, said the ministry was inviting companies to try their hand at a variety of methods to control the menace. Meanwhile, about 30,000 pheromone traps and 4,000 light traps would be set up in farms, streets and gardens. There will also be 370,000 lures to attract the miniature beetles.
The red palm weevil (rhynchophorus ferruginous) originated in tropical Asia. The reddish-brown insects measure about 3cm and feed on the soft tissue of palm trees. The insects first appeared in the Middle East, and then the UAE roughly 25 years ago. Earlier this year Lt Col Jamal Habash, the head of Abu Dhabi Police's dog unit, said his department would collaborate with Al Ain police to use canines to sniff out weevils.
The use of the German shepherds and Labradors led to the eradication of weevils from 95 per cent of the palm trees at Al Foaa Farms in Al Ain, according to Lt Col Habash. He added that the scheme could be expanded to control the pests at farms throughout the country.