Guam – The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle has now spread throughout the entire island of Guam.
Coconut Rhinocerous Eradication Program Chief of Operations Roland Quitugua tells PNC that the beetle, which started out in Tumon, can now be found in every village on island, but he says the battle against the beetle isn’t over yet.
“We have found damage and caught rhino beetles in all villages we have not found breeding sites in all villages but basically we can say that the Rhino beetle has spread throughout the island of Guam,” said Quitugua.
Quitugua says although the beetles have made it out of the quarantine zone in Tumon where they originated and spread throughout the island they aren’t giving up. In fact he says in June he will be conducting a series of workshops for both the public and private sector with some new technologies and techniques they are using against the beetle. “Have we lost the battle and the answer is no,” said Quitugua.
Quitugua says that Tumon is a good example of this. Although some areas like Ypao beach seem to be totally devastated the trees there are still alive, and the trees in the surrounding hotels like the Hilton and other areas in Tumon are very healthy. Quitugua says this is because the trees are being managed properly which means all their flowers and coconuts are trimmed regularly and green waste is properly disposed of.
So how can you tell if a tree is infected? The telltale sign is triangular shaped leaves that almost look like they’ve been cut. If you see triangular shaped leaves accompanied with noticeable bore wholes where the beetles literally dig into the tree, then it’s infested with the rhino beetle. The rhino beetle can kill coconut trees by eating the heart of the tree.
Quitugua says they are still using some bio control agents. Specifically they have released a fungus that is killing the rhino beetle, just not fast enough.”It’s a fungus that’s very specific to the rhino beetle. we’ve seen that this fungus has been killing and is auto disseminating. What’s happening is our crew can go to the jungle areas cut down a dead coconut standing trunk and when it hits the ground and we split it open we find dead rhino beetles and they’re all covered with green fungus,” said Quitugua.
The beetles lay their eggs in rotting wood. They hatch as worms or grubs which feed off this rotting wood which is why Quitugua says the key to controlling the beetle is controlling green waste. “Is the battle over? The answer is no, but the reality is we’re going to have to manage our trees from here on out and the biggest problem that we have is the green waste we have to manage our green waste and something has to be done about that and it’s not just you and me but we have to get together as an island to handle this,” said Quitugua.
To help prevent beetles from infecting your trees make sure you properly dispose of green waste. Don’t leave any piles of trees or branches lying around your property where the beetles can breed.