Experts plan to defeat rhinoceros beetle with disease

An example of a coconut tree ruined by the rhinoceros beetle

A disease could be the downfall of the destructive coconut rhinoceros beetle — or at least that’s the hope of those working to combat the pest in the country.

They are planning to bring a disease into Solomon Islands to fight the beetle as part of a collaborative project involving experts, aid donors and the Government. The Ministry of Development Planning and Aid Coordination has recommended $750,000 in the 2018 budget for integrated pest control.

Coordinator Bob Macfarlane said the project is aimed at providing awareness, halting the spread of invasive rhinoceros beetles and attacking them with disease.

He said the goal is to find and introduce a natural disease that can kill the beetles.

The method has proven effective in other Pacific countries, such as Fiji and Tonga.

But Mr Macfarlane said the disease used to kill the beetles in those countries would not work with the beetles in the Solomons.

“They look the same, but their behavior and physiology is different — that’s the slight problem,” he said. “So we will be going to Asia to find the exact beetle and find its natural enemy.”

He said they believe the type of beetle present in the Solomons came from one specific place in Asia, and they will use DNA testing to determine the source.

Once the country is identified, they will select diseases that are controlling the beetle there.

“It’ll probably be a virus disease or a fungus disease,” he said. “We will identify it, we will determine that it actually kills the beetle, and then we will import it, bulk it up and release it here.”

By Lowen Sei  

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