Coconut rhinoceros beetle threatens Russell Islands plantation

An example of a coconut tree ruined by the coconut rhinoceros beetle

The largest coconut plantation in Solomon Islands and the southern hemisphere is becoming more vulnerable to the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

Stakeholders of Russell Islands Plantation Estate Limited in Central Province are concerned that the plantation could be affected by the invasive pest, which was detected last week on Moe island in the Russell Islands.

Yandina-based Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Field Officer James Leho and his team toured Moe and several other islands in the area last week as part of routine surveillance of at-risk areas. They found signs of adult rhinoceros beetles, larvae and damage caused by the beetles on Moe.

Mr Leho and Moe residents then destroyed the beetle’s main breeding sites, which are dead and rotting coconut palms, to slow the beetles’ spread.

Larvae and an adult coconut rhinoceros beetle from Moe, Russell Islands. Photo: CRB Task Force

In a statement, the Government and Palm Industries Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Task Force said the impact on Solomon Islands’ coconut crop and copra exports could be severe if the beetle becomes well established on the main islands.

“Moe is one of the closest of the Russell Islands to Guadalcanal, but it is still more than 40 kilometers distant, which is much too far for the beetle to fly,” the statement said. “It is therefore most likely that it travelled by canoe or small inter-island vessel as it did to Ngella and Savo and possibly has already done to other islands in the Russell Islands group.”

Biosecurity Solomon Islands officials will soon carry out a survey on Moe and other islands in the area to determine where the beetle is present.

They will later plan a campaign to help destroy the beetle’s breeding sites, which is currently the only method residents can use to reduce the beetle population.

“People need to be aware of the serious nature of the beetle problem and the very high importance of destroying the breeding sites,” the coconut rhinoceros beetle task force said. “It is up to the people of every area where the beetle is present to destroy breeding sites. Failure to do this will mean the population will increase and more palms will be damaged or killed.”

By Charlie Salini

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