BY BARNABAS MANEBONA
THERE is worrying development in the campaign against the Rhinoceros beetle with larvae and adult insects found on one of the islands in the Russell Islands group.
While it is too early to cry ‘outbreak’, the find is an unsettling turn of events for the industry and the campaign against the pest.
And, the government and palm industries CRB taskforce are leaving no stones unturned to verify the status of the situation in Russell.
In a press statement, the taskforce said last week Biosecurity Solomon Islands (BSI) received a worrying new report from James Leho, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL) Field Officer in Yandina, Russell Islands.
For routine surveillance of at-risk areas, BSI had asked James to gather together a team to survey several islands in the Russell islands group.
James, along with Francis, Clement Fagi, and Frank Korai, quickly visited the islands of Moe, Loun, Small Loun, Tain, Telina, Banika, Yandina and Alokan.
They found damage, larvae and adults of coconut rhinoceros beetle on Moe only. James immediately reported this directly to BSI, who will take action as soon as they are able. No damage, larvae or adults were observed on the other islands.
“Remember the larvae look similar to many other beetle larvae but the adult looks quite different and samples of adults are needed before an outbreak can be confirmed.
“This is a very worrying development. Russell Islands are home to the largest coconut plantation in the Southern hemisphere. The impact on the Solomon Islands coconut crop and copra exports could be severe if the beetle gets well established on the main islands.
“James, the chiefs, leaders and people of Moe have done the right thing and have begun destruction of the main beetle breeding sites, dead and rotting coconut palms.
“It is very important that this is done thoroughly and quickly if spread to the main islands is to be slowed. There is no need to destroy damaged palms that still have their central growing spike as they can recover if the beetle attack is reduced.”
The statement suggests that although Moe is one of the closest of the Russell Islands to Guadalcanal but it is still more than 40km away, which is much too far for the beetle to fly.
“It is therefore most likely that it travelled by canoe or small inter-island vessel as it did to Ngella and Savo and possibly has all ready done to other islands in the Russell Islands group.”
BSI will shortly (as soon as funds permit) travel to Moe and the other islands to carry out a survey to determine exactly where the beetle is present now. Once this information is clear BSI will plan a campaign to help villagers destroy the breeding sites.
“If we act quickly there is a chance of eradication.”
“People need to be aware of the serious nature of the beetle problem and the very high importance of destroying the breeding sites. At the moment this is the only tool we have for reducing the beetle population. It is up to the people of every area where the beetle is present to destroy breeding sites. Failure to do this will mean the population will increase and more palms will be damaged or killed.”
People are requested to inspect their cargoes in canoes and inter-island vessels before they travel to make sure no beetles are present.