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Rhinoceros beetles alarming

Recent surveys have highlighted that coconut plantations in about 100 villages around Upolu and Savai’i are affected by rhinoceros beetles. 

And the problem is getting worse, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Assistant C.E.O. (Crops Division), Moafanua Tolo Iosefo. 

“The Government has put in a lot of money trying to push the Ministry and the farming community in ways to work together, so we are now rolling out some community-based programmes where we are working together in the sanitation programmes,” Moafanua said. 

The first part of the sanitation programme involves the cutting of coconut trees that have been affected by rhino beetles, and chopping them into small pieces. 

“We are also trying to look at ways to introduce the bio control – the virus and fungus, so all of these are integrated pest management approach we are using here in Samoa,” he said. 

“And also the use of pheromone as traps because in that way we are trying to look at trapping as many rhino beetles as possible.” 

Moafanua said the idea is that maybe in the next 10 years, the population of rhino beetles will decrease to the level that it cannot be a major threat to the coconut industry in Samoa. 

“Rhino beetles are spreading around Upolu and Savai’i. Villages with 50 percent or more damage are marked and identified as hotspot areas for rhino beetles, we give priority to those villages,” he told the Samoa Observer. 

“Last week we distributed chainsaws to villages so that they can cut down damaged coconut trees, it is their job to cut down the trees into small logs, pile them and we will come to work and work together with them to apply some virus and the fungus. 

“At the same time we are trying to collect as much rhino beetles as possible and eggs, and the larvae and pupa from those dying coconuts. So that is part of the community work.” 

Moafanua said they hope by the end of next year they can cover as many villages as they can, through the distribution of chainsaws and the implementation of sanitation programmes. 

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