Up to 5,500 trap lures have been distributed to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands in a bid to contain the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) infestation. The lures are part of a 50-day effort that has earmarked Beetle breedings and potential breeding sites for clean-up as part of efforts to rid the two countries of a new strain of the pest that has been devastating Pacific region’s coconut plantations.
The Pacific Community (SPC) is guiding the eradication effort through the Pacific Awareness and Response to the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (PARC) project, working closely with Vanuatu and Solomon Islands biosecurity teams to contain the CRB infestation which includes the new CRB Guam (CRB-G) strain. Estimates show that the Pacific could lose up to NZD 237 million per year by 2040 as a result of damage to coconut trees alone.
“SPC is providing resources to identify CRB larvae,” said Fereti Atumurirava, the Land Resources Division’s Acting PARC Manager. “It is also helping to recognise and destroy CRB breeding sites, provide traps and lures, and mass-produce the necessary biological control fungus that will help curb the outbreak. Infestations can kill most palms within a year, and given the Beetle’s highly invasive nature, it can cause emergency risks and loss of livelihood in the Pacific region.”
The Pacific Awareness and Response to CRB is a NZD 4 million project funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and implemented by SPC. The four-year project aims to support control efforts of the CRB infestation in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, including the incursion of the new Guam strain.
Biosecurity authorities from the Solomon Islands capital Honiara will carry out plantation sanitation and clean-up operations over the two-months. Palms will be cut down, trunks chopped into smaller sizes, and transported to disposal sites for burning.
In Vanuatu, surveillance activities are expected to be carried out at a number of infected sites, including: Moso Island, Lelepa Island, Lelepa Landing, Moso Landing, Mangaliliu Village, Tamate village towards Johnathan Naupa’s farm, Mele Village, Mele Bay, Bukura to Devils point and Tuktuk. Early warning traps have also been placed on islands and in villages, including : Nguna Island, Kakula Island, Pele Island, Emau Island, Siviri village, Saama Village, Onesua school, Epau Village, and Pango Village.
The new CRB-G strain infecting the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu is resistant to traditional control methods. In 10 years, it has invaded seven Pacific Island countries and states – Guam, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Palau, Hawaii, and most recently, New Caledonia.