Gathering palm fronds for a sukkah
Gathering palm fronds for a sukkahFlash90

The Agricultural Ministry on Monday warned Israelis who were building sukkot booths for the upcoming holiday to beware a pest that is infesting many of the palm leaves that are traditionally used to cover the temporary structures.

The red palm weevil has infected many of Israel's palm trees, and they remain in palm branches even when they are cut down from the tree.

The pests, about 3.5 centimeters in length and of a reddish-brown color, have mounted a major attack on Israel's palm trees this summer, with many trees “suffocating” as thousands of the bugs infiltrate the trunk of the trees, eating it from inside.

The bug is native to southeast Asia, and officials believe it may have been brought to Israel by foreign workers who illicitly imported agricultural products.

The Jewish National Fund has been checking branches it distributes in national forests for the pest, as have many local authorities. Health officials urged Israelis to buy or acquire palm branches for their sukkahcoverings only from authorized sources that have checked the branches.

The pest is harmless to humans, however its presence could be a major annoyance, as they tend to fall down from branches onto the clothes and heads of people.

Since the infested branches hold so many bugs, individuals who use the branches should not be surprised if they find a mass of bugs in their holiday dinners, as they fall down en masse from their branch homes.