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Sabal Palm Tree

Today at our school we planted a Sabal Palm. It is the state tree of Florida and we were all excited about getting one. When the man was waiting for the other man to dig the hole he noticed a Cabbage Palm beetle crawl into the top of the palm. He told the teacher about it and told her to put Malathion on it. We don't want to hurt any of the baby birds or butterflies that are in our courtyard. Is there another way we can get rid of this insect without using Malathion? It is away from the butterfly garden but we wanted to see if there was a safer way to do it. Thank you, Ms. Kitner's Class

Backyard Expert - Cathy Nordstrum

Dear Students in Ms. Kitner's Class:

Thank you for sending in your question to eNature. Your concern for our environment is admirable since it is always good to think twice before applying any kind of chemical. Unfortunately, the Sabal Palm, or Cabbage Palm, is prone to attack by several pests that can kill the tree. Of these, the most serious is the Palmetto Beetle. If your tree appears to be unhealthy or stressed, and of course transplanting always causes stress, then the tree is especially vulnerable to attack. Read about how a sick or dying tree releases pheromones (odors) that attract male beetles. They in turn release their own pheromone, and the two odors combine to attract even more beetles. Once female beetles arrive, and the breeding cycle begins, the tree, and other trees nearby become infested and die.

Once believed to affect only sick and dying trees, there is growing concern that Palmetto Weevils now attack healthy trees as well. Since chemical treatment will not help, and since you don't want to bring an infestation of these pests into your community, I suggest that you get rid of the tree. I know that will be hard to do, but you will be protecting other Sabal Palms in the area.

If you would like to plant another Sabal Palm, visit a nursery that can give you their healthiest specimen, and perhaps they can give you some local advice on dealing with the beetles. You have learned several valuable lessons in plant ecology, and again, I commend your decision to avoid chemical treatment until you researched the problem.

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