The Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock, through their Biosecurity Solomon Islands (BSI) Department, assisted Rennell Islands last month to fight the threat of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB).
The CRB, which destroys coconut plantations, is threatening the livelihoods of Rennell Island communities and Solomon Islands farmers.
To respond to this serious threat BSI sent two of its officers to Rennell Island from 26 May to 1 June to work with two (MAL) extension officers.
Together, the BSI and extension officers put out 10 new traps to catch CRB adults and larvae, and placed new pheromone lures in existing traps to attract the beetles and catch them. The officers also constructed Artificial Breeding Sites (ABS) for the CRB.
The purpose of the ABS is for rhinoceros beetle larvae to be infected with the fungus as a biological control agent and spread it further amongst the CRB population to kill more rhinoceros beetle.
BSI also visited many communities in Rennell Islands, including Tagini, Lavangu Village, Abatai, Lake Teggano and Kanggava Bay, to raise awareness about the threat of the CRB to the economy and livelihoods of Solomon Islanders, and the Rennell Island communities.
BSI urged local communities to support its efforts to stop the CRB from spreading even further around the island.
The main key message is to clean their plantations and destroy all possible breeding sites by Cutting and Burning and Killing all live beetles and larvae found.
“Cut down the dead standing Palms, Burning the chopped coconut trunks and Kill whatever Larvae, pupae or adult beetles found on the severely infected Palms,” the message reads.
Officers visited churches, clinics, canteens and schools to put up posters and brochures with the “Cut, Burn, Kill” message to stop the spread of CRB.
Spreading awareness about how to stop the CRB is important in Rennell Islands because in August 2018, Australian scientists found that Rennell Islands had the more aggressive type of beetle called CRB-G.
This beetle is less widespread, but more devastating than the other beetle type called CRB-S. This is because in addition to coconuts, the CRB-G can also attack other palms, plus banana, pineapple and papaya — destroying whole gardens.
During this most recent trip, BSI officers collected more adult CRBs and larvae as specimens to send to New Zealand to conduct DNA analysis and reconfirm if the aggressive CRB-G beetle was still present in Rennell Islands.
BSI and the extension officers also visited locations near mining and logging operations because the high amount of traffic from these sites are believed to unintentionally assist the spread of the CRB as the beetle ‘hitchhikes’ on trucks to travel further.
Additionally, the destruction cause by widening roads and building camps near mining and logging operations results in rotting vegetation which create more homes and breeding grounds for the CRB, helping its numbers grow.
Nevertheless, BSI officers noted that the villages in Rennell Islands had very clean coconut plantations and overall excellent sanitation management, which helped to mitigate the CRB threat.
The Ministry of Agriculture works to fight the CRB and raise awareness about the issue. The Ministry also conducts CRB clean ups which is supported by the New Zealand Government by direct funding support and through AgResearch New Zealand; and through the Australian Government initiative, Strongim Bisnis, which helps businesses in the cocoa, coconut and tourism sectors to grow.
– BSI Press