PALM SPRINGS, CA - MAY 15: A natural spring-fed desert oasis is one of many supporting thousands of palm trees that line the San Andreas earthquake fault on May 15, 2008 northeast of Palm Springs, California. The fault system, which also includes the Banning and Mission Creek faults, pushes water to the surface of the Coachella Valley, creating important water sources for desert plants and wildlife. New calculations reveal a 99.7 percent chance that a magnitude 6.7 quake or larger will strike by 2037, according to the first-ever statewide temblor forecast released by the scientists of the United States Geological (USGS), Southern California Earthquake Center and California Geological Survey last month. Scientists have particular concern for the people living along the southern portion of the 800-mile-long San Andreas Fault east of Los Angeles. This section of the fault has had very little slippage for more than 300 years and has built up immense pressure that could release an earthquake of historic proportions at any time. Such a quake could produce a sudden lateral movement of 23 to 32 feet and be would be among the largest ever recorded. Experts have predicted that a quake of magnitude-7.6 or greater on the southern San Andreas would kill thousands of people and cause many billions of dollars in damages, dwarfing the 1994 Northridge disaster near Los Angeles that killed 72 people, injured more than 9,000 and caused $25 billion in damage. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
The California Department of Food and Agriculture is launching a counter-attack on a group of insects attacking palm trees in Laguna Beach.
On Monday, California State Agricultural officials announced in a news release on their website they had confirmed the "detection of a red palm weevil in the Laguna Beach area of Orange County -- the first-ever detection of the pest in the United States."
This marks the first time the pest has been sighted in the United States, and it is not something to be taken lightly. According to LAist.com, the CDFA considers the insect to be "the world's worst pest of palm trees."
An infestation typically results in the death of the tree, according to the news release.
The weevil is native to Southeast Asia, and has spread as far as Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania. Until now, the only confirmed sightings close to the United States has been in Aruba and the Dutch Antilles last year.
The Laguna Beach Independent reports that this discovery has spurred action to contain the pests before an outbreak occurs.
State agricultural inspectors are deploying an initial 1,000 containers spiked with a chemical-soaked lure within a quarter mile or so around the intersection of Chiquita Street and Hillcrest Drive, said Jay Van Rein, a spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture, in Sacramento.
Van Rein is also concerned about the possibility that California's $30 million date crop in the Coachella Valley will be affected.
Since the initial discovery, about 400 more trees have been inspected, but there have been no additional sightings of the bug.
The CDFA is encouraging the public to help out and call the pest hotline at 1-800-491-1899 if they notice suspicious infestations around palm trees.
Published at 5:38 AM PDT on Oct 19, 2010