Fighting the coconut rhinoceros beetle

06 October 2016, 12:00AM

The Pacific Community (S.P.C.) is taking proactive measures to assist Samoa and other Pacific Island countries and territories in their efforts to curb any resurgence of the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

S.P.C., with support from AgResearch New Zealand, has dispatched to Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture 1000 sachets of male aggregate pheromones, called Oryctalure, to trap these beetles (Oryctes rhinoceros) which can cause severe damage when they bore into the crowns of coconut palms to feed on sap.

Coconut palms cover around 30 percent of Samoa’s land mass and contribute T$8 million annually to the Pacific Island nation’s economy.

In 2007 the total value of exports of coconut products from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa and Kiribati was valued at €14.4 million.

The use of male aggregate pheromones, such as Oryctalure, has proven effective in suppressing the beetle’s population and could assist in preventing the spread of a new strain, called the Guam biotype.

The Guam biotype beetle, believed to be highly invasive and capable of inflicting severe damage to palms, poses a real threat to food security and socio-economic development of Pacific Island nations.

“This new strain of coconut rhinoceros beetle is already present in Guam, the mainland of Papua New Guinea, Palau, Hawaii and Guadalcanal in Solomon Islands and comprehensive research is needed to determine the effectiveness of different pheromones on different beetle biotypes,” S.P.C Entomologist, Dr Maclean Vaqalo, explained.

“One sachet of the pheromones we have sent to Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture can last up to three months in a trap, depending on environmental conditions.  This is an immediate measure that will be used as an early warning system to monitor the likely presence of the Guam biotype, especially at high quarantine risk areas.”

Coconut and similar palms thrive in regions where there is no cold season and minimal dry season and, as a result, the coconut rhinoceros beetles are able to reproduce throughout the year.

 “S.P.C, with support from regional scientists, has recently drafted a regional approach to effectively control this new strain of beetle which addresses emergence response and quarantine awareness, exploration of effective biological control measures, and outreach to farming communities to adopt integrated pest management best practices.”

The regional approach was agreed to and supported by plant protectionists in the region during the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation and Regional Technical Meeting of Plant Protection (P.P.P.O. & R.T.M.P.P.) meetings held in Nadi, Fiji, in September 2015.

“We’re also providing technical advice and assistance on biosecurity, quarantine and integrated pest management measures for the coconut rhinoceros beetle,” Dr Vaqalo said.

The regional approach in the area of biosecurity awareness, emergence response and management of the beetle biotypes in the region will only work well if funding is forthcoming to implement the work plan. 

S.P.C. looks forward to working with Pacific countries and territories, as well as scientific institutions and fund donors from within the region and abroad to address the regional approach.

06 October 2016, 12:00AM

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