The Making of a South American Palm Weevil Mini-Documentary for “Deep Look” with KQED

By CISR Team |
Palm Tree
The weevil killed palm in San Diego that was taken down for the KQED “Deep Look” science show.

The South American palm weevil, Rhynchophorus palmarum (Coleoptera: Curculionidae), is well established in parts of San Diego County in California and is responsible for killing numerous Canary Islands date palms. The spectacular damage this invasive pest causes and the large showy adult weevils and alien-looking larvae and pupae, captured the imagination of Elliott Kennerson and Joshua Cassidy, digital media producers for the science show Deep Look with KQED Public Television and Radio in San Francisco. After a few phone calls and ensuing discussions, Elliott made the pitch to KQED to develop a story on the palm weevil and the project was given approval for development.

A plan was made to drop a weevil infested Canary Island date palm tree in a residential area in San Diego County and from this palm weevil life stages would be collected and filmed. The first challenge was finding an infested palm, which we did, and the bigger challenge was to bring the palm down and then cut it up so we could examine the crown of the dying palm for weevils.

Paul Webb with RPW Services, Inc. put us in contact with Michael Palat from West Coast Arborists, Inc. who generously offered to taken the palm down and then dispose of it free of charge.


Paul Webb (RPW Services, Inc.) (left) and Michael Palat, West Coast Aborists, Inc. (right)

The take down of the palm was done on 27 March 2017 and filmed by Josh and Elliott. This involved a lot of camera work, including Go Pro’s strapped to the helmet of the arborist who was responsible for chain sawing the palm from the bucket lift!  Adult weevils, pupae, and one larva were recovered from the palm. The weevil life stages were photographed and filmed, and flight mill activity was all digitally recorded on 28 March 2017. Hours of digital footage was recorded and this will be condensed down to about 3 minutes when the final version is produced and released for public viewing in early July 2017.



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