By Urshu la Jim
The new biotype of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) Oryctes rhinoceros beetle known as the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle – Guam Biotype (CRB-G) has emerged.
It is a species of the scarabaeidae family and was first discovered at Guam in 2007, where it got its name.
Since its discovery, new invasions have been recorded in several Pacific Islands countries and Papua New Guinea is among them.
In PNG, it was discovered in 2009.
This biotype is highly invasive with the ability to cause significant damage and to rapidly adapt to its environment than the native rhinoceros beetle.
The CRB-G is resistant to the virus used for the native rhinoceros beetle.
The National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection authority (NAQIA) had done surveys and awareness on the beetle.
According to NAQIA acting chief plant protection officer, David Tenakanai, the CRB was resistant to the virus which killed the native rhinoceros beetle, known also as the CRB-Pacific biotype.
Tenakanai said the native rhinoceros beetle had been in the New Guinea Islands, especially in East New Britain, and only recently spread to the mainland.
The CRB is a new strain and is more destructive than the native rhinoceros beetle. There are no coconut variety resistant to the CRB.
Tenakanai said the CRB was in NCD in 2009 and had spread to villages in Central and Gulf.
He said they had conducted a survey in Manus last year and sighted the CRB in Los Negros, Buin in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB) and there were signs of it in Markham as well.
The CRB is resistant to the current control measures and it is spreading to other parts of PNG.
“It is widespread and is resistant to current control measures and that is concern,” Tenakanai said.
He said it may work in the industry level where they had labour and capital to contain the CRB but it not work in a village situation where there were dead coconut palms.
He said with the Bogia Coconut Syndrome (BCS) in Madang, when a coconut palm was infected, it was cut down or left there to rot and those can actually be breeding grounds for the CRB.
The female CRB lays eggs in compost materials, debris and can lay eggs in sawdust as well.
They spend most of their lives in protected habitats and are attracted to light from boats and planes.
In NCD, there are no coconut palms because of the CRB. Other areas outside Port Moresby also have no coconut palms because of the widespread of the CRB. Tenakanai said they had conducted awareness to inform the public and villages to at least use the dead coconut palms as firewood to prevent the CRB from breeding in the dead palms.
“The female beetle feeds into the coconut and damages the coconut.
When it breeds, it goes and looks for dead palms or debris and lays eggs there. So remove any rubbish.”
He said the awareness assisted people on cultural practices that could reduce the CRB population.
“If a famer is doing crop sanitation, the neighbouring farmer must do the same.
“Beetles can fly from an infected palm to another palm,” he said.
The CRB is also associated with trade. When there is movement of boats and cargoes, the CRB could easily be transported.
He said currently, NAQIA was using conventional treatments in terms of pheromones but the CRB was resistant to these.
“We would like to get a new strain of virus to control it because the current one doesn’t work on the Guam biotype.
“If it is relating to coconut, the coconut industry must assist people with seedlings.
“We can tell people to destroy the breeding grounds and reduce the wastes but the respective industries must provide good materials.”
Tenakanai said NAQIA was using its own funds to manage the CRB.
He appealed to the industries such as oil palm and coconut industries to work together to combat this infestation.
By Urshu la Jim