Deadly threat to island's palms

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 10, No. 35            August 30, 2000

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In an effort to meet member's expectations and the future needs of the tourism industry, Belize Tourism Industry Association (BTIA) has just completed district consultations around the country. A sparse turnout in San Pedro did not discourage facilitator Reynaldo Guerrero of the Belize Institute of Management last Friday, as many issues and possible solutions were discussed among those attending.

    Stakeholders of the tourism industry were requested to identify their interests, problems, as well as areas of potential conflict. The resulting information is to be compiled to aid in BTIA's plan for the new millennium.

    The challenge of getting enough people together to meet in our area has been ongoing. Presently, members of San Pedro BTIA do not conduct regular meetings; instead they send a representative to national meetings to express their needs or correspond in writing. One attendee explained that BTIA had lost its appeal because of a lack of representation and the general misconception that San Pedro can take weevil and also feeds on the tree. This worm blocks the vein where the sap flows within the palm and may eventually (but not always) cause a "red ring" to show. How densely populated the pests are in the plant determines how long it takes for the tree to die. It can take as little as three months and may never show any symptoms until the bitter last days. The actual cause cannot be determined until the tree is dead and chopped open. If no weevils are present, more than likely it was a worm. 

    As if that weren't enough of a problem, Mr. Quiroz says that "lethal yellowing," another disease destroying the coconut palm, is also rampant on the island. Red ring and lethal yellowing have similar symptoms in a dying palm. Thanks to Ms. Stephenson, he was able to examine a dead weevil from her tree to determine the cause. Having toured the island only two years ago, the pathologist claims that vacant or unattended lots increase the chances of an epidemic, for untreated trees and lots are "sanctuaries" for the deadly insects and worms. Before leaving the island, Mr. Quiroz met with representatives of San Pedro Town to inform them of the situation and so they could determine what measures to take. 

    The pathologist recommended that anyone owning a sick tree to chop it down and treat the larvae with insecticides or burn it to eliminate the deadly bug. He suggested, as a preventative measure for healthy trees or a treatment for newly infested trees, a systemic insecticide, or one that circulates inside the tree, to prevent contaminating the environment. Mr. Quiroz said the insecticide is then introduced by drilling a hole, at an angle, 3/8 to inch deep in the trunk and pouring the required amount (15-20cc) of the liquid into it. He advised using Monochrotophos-60, name-brand Procron or Nuvacron, insecticide to eradicate the weevil. This process can be repeated every six months in an alternate site on the tree.

    The public should be aware these insecticides and those used for lethal yellowing are restricted pesticides. The person administering them must be trained, evaluated, and subsequently licensed to buy pesticides. Anyone wishing further information on this subject may contact the Pesticide Control Board at 092-2640.
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