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(Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

Thus far, no evidence of pecan weevil has been detected in commercial orchards in Artesia and the surrounding area, and the Eddy County Extension Office and New Mexico Department of Agriculture are working hard to ensure it stays that way.

The NMDA issued a release Saturday stating pecan weevil, a significant insect pest affecting pecan trees, had been found in residential trees in Artesia, Roswell, Hobbs and Clovis. As such, nuts generating from residential trees in those four communities were played under a 60-day quarantine that took effect Jan. 27 in order to prevent the weevil from spreading to commercial orchards and other residential trees.

“The pecan industry in New Mexico brought in $280 million last year,” Eddy County Extension Agent Woods Houghton told the Daily Press Tuesday, stressing the importance of keeping the pest away from the city’s many orchards.

Following the NMDA’s announcement, some residents expressed concern over the fact they’d already eaten or gifted pecans from their residential trees.

Houghton assures citizens physical harm from eating affected nuts would not be a problem; were the nut infected with weevil, the weevil, a white, grub-like insect, would be present and visible, or the nut meat would be missing, already consumed by the weevil.

In-shell pecans gifted or moved about the city prior to Jan. 27 were, of course, not subject to the quarantine. Also, shelled pecan meats are not subject to the quarantine, as they are not affected by the weevil unless the insect was seen upon shelling.

Residents are asked only to not transport in-shell pecans from their yards during the quarantine – including transport to Las Cruces or El Paso, Texas, to sell – and, if they are able, to inspect pecans for signs of weevil.

Pecans may only be transported and sold in Las Cruces if the resident obtains a phytosanitary certificate from the NMDA. Those wishing to obtain a certificate to sell in El Paso must check with the Texas Department of Agriculture for requirements.

Residents are also asked not to transport in-shell nuts to accumulators outside Artesia without a phytosanitary certificate. Houghton says dates for pecan inspection by the extension office will be announced soon.

Houghton also notes that already-harvested, in-shell pecans being stored at residents’ homes will not contract weevil; the insect will not enter the nut once it has been harvested. However, residents may obtain literature on proper storage of pecans from the extension office.

“What we don’t want is people moving them from in town, where the weevil is, to out of town, where it isn’t,” Houghton said.

Houghton asks anyone finding a weevil inside a pecan harvested from their yard or noting holes approximately the size of a No. 2 pencil lead in their in-shell pecans to contact the Eddy County Extension Office at 575-887-6595 so that an agent can take steps to eliminate the weevil from their trees and prevent it from spreading. There will be no need to cut down affected trees.