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Invasive beetle species found in Central Valley
Tree nuts threatened
almond 228
This photo of an infested almond, damaged by an invasive almond beetle, was provided courtesy of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. The beetle is capable of posing a significant threat to the state’s tree nut industry.

A new invasive species of beetle was recently found infesting almonds and pistachios in the San Joaquin Valley; the beetle’s larvae cause damage by boring into nuts.

This invasive pest has been infesting Australia’s almond production for a decade and its presence in the Central Valley could threaten the region’s tree nut industry.

These invasive almond beetles and their larvae feed on the kernels of nuts and can cause massive crop losses. These pests – Carpophilus truncates (Nitidulidae), also known as Carpophilus beetles or invasive almond beetles – are only about 2.5 mm long and they bore tiny holes into developing nuts, eating the kernels inside and leaving tunnels and a powdery mix of nutmeat and frass behind.

This pest has been threatening almonds in Australia for 10 years and more recently, they have been reported in walnuts in Argentina and Italy. This beetle has the ability to survive through the winter in the soil and inside unharvested leftover nuts called “mummy nuts,” so they pose an ongoing threat to other crops beyond almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.

“The last thing farmers need is an invasive beetle killing some of our most important crops. These tiny pests lay their eggs inside unharvested ‘mummy nuts’ and can survive the cold winter months before they come out and feed on developing almonds, pistachios, and walnuts,” said area Congressman Josh Harder. “We have to treat this invasion like the major economic threat it is. I’m calling on the USDA to step up and help our farmers get this under control before it’s too late.”

Harder led a group of colleagues in submitting a letter to the USDA pushing for the allocation of emergency funding from the Commodity Credit Program (CCC) and the Plant Pest and Disease Management and Disaster Prevention Program (PPDMDPP) to address the urgent threat of this invasive beetle.

In a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture, the legislators noted that “Recent observations and research, notably by the University of California Cooperative Extension and confirmed by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, have highlighted the beetle’s presence and destructive impact in almond and pistachio orchards across several counties in California, including Stanislaus, Merced, Madera, and Kings. It has unofficially been found in other counties in the Central Valley indicating its ability to rapidly spread.”

The situation, added legislators, is exacerbated by the “current lack of comprehensive understanding and effective control measures against this pest within our borders.”

Harder, along with fellow Congress members David G. Valadao, John Garamendi, Katie Porter, Zoe Lofgren and Jimmy Panetta as well as State Senator Laphonza Butler, urged quick and decisive action.

“Given the beetle’s established threat level to tree nuts and the significant acreage of almonds, walnuts and pistachios within California, it is imperative that we act swiftly to mitigate its impact. The requested funding will be instrumental in supporting the necessary research, tracking, and management efforts to address this issue. Specifically, this funding is essential for enhanced research and tracking efforts to better understand the beetle’s behavior, lifecycle, and effective control strategies. This research will also inform the development of management guidelines and best practices for agricultural stakeholders, ensuring that our response is grounded in the latest science and expert recommendations,” legislators wrote. “Additionally, financial support for farmers implementing winter sanitation practices and, if necessary, for the removal of abandoned orchards, will be vital in controlling the spread of this pest. Such measures are crucial not only for the immediate management of the Carpophilus truncatus beetle but also for safeguarding against future outbreaks that could further jeopardize our agricultural economy.

The CCC is authorized to transfer funds to address emergency outbreaks of plant pests and diseases. In addition, the PPDMDPP sets aside $11 million to swiftly respond to emerging pest problems facing the agricultural industry.

“Leveraging these authorities can provide a timely and effective response to the Carpophilus truncatus beetle’s threat. Our goal is not only to understand the scope of the current infestation but also to manage and prevent future outbreaks that could have devastating impacts on our nation’s agriculture and trade,” the letter concluded. “Our prompt action is critical to safeguarding the livelihood of our farmers and the health of our agricultural economy.”