Invasive beetle crisis in Solomon Islands

Finding a solution

Drs Trevor Jackson and Sean Marshall were part of an NZ MFAT funded project to assist the Solomon Islanders to find a solution to an invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros).

The beetle damages the palms by boring into the palm stem and feeding on the sap. If the beetle attack is heavy the palm will die. The beetle infestations occur in commercial copra and palm oil production as well as coconut palms that are essential to the daily livelihoods of villagers who depend on coconuts as part of their regular diet.

“The attack has been much worse than we anticipated,” said Dr Jackson “mature oil palm are being killed in the plantations as well as the young replants. In some areas there is almost total destruction of the coconut palms, much worse than our first predictions of 50% loss”.


Limiting the damage

To limit damage, Solomon Islanders are resorting to hand collection of thousands of beetles and destroying breeding sites. If the beetle continues to spread, it is estimated the Pacific could lose at least NZ$237 million per annum by 2040 as a result of damage to coconut trees alone.

Our scientists aided the Solomon Islanders' eradication efforts by commissioning the creation of a large 3D coconut rhinoceros beetle replica to be used in conjunction with a series of training videos that demonstrated the proper collection/disposal methods, as well as the dissection process needed to properly ID the coconut rhinoceros beetle variant.

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