New tactics in Guam rhino beetle invasion

Oct 29, 2009
Dog handlers with the Guam Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Eradication Project pose with their comrades. The dogs are trained to sniff out rhino beetle breeding sites. From left to right: Royce Flores with Kira, Tim Francisco with Nut, Anthony Santos with Beetle, and Ginger Haddock with Coco. Credit: Roland Quituqua

Canines and a bio-control organism come to the rescue of Guam's coconut trees in efforts to control an invasive species plaguing the island.

The coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) invasion, first detected in 2007, has been checked by the determined efforts of UOG scientists, Guam Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture. "We've stopped the expected population explosion," says UOG entomologist Aubrey Moore, "due to the rapid response of the government of Guam and the federal government. The infestation has been contained to the northwest coast of the island, but we have yet to see a decrease in the population."

"Research has shown the bucket traps baited with pheromone lures are not as effective as we had hoped in curtailing the beetles," says Roland Quituqua, director of the Guam Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Eradication Project. As head rhino hunter he is in the field daily with his eradication team.

New tactics are being employed to drive the population to zero. Canine skills are being utilized to sniff out rhino breeding sites. Four dogs were recruited from Georgia and Guam Customs and Quarantine officers were dispatched to bring the dogs to Guam. Handlers were hired and training for both the dogs and their handlers began in July. The dogs were deployed in November and they are helping the eradication team to detect breeding sites so that they can be destroyed.

A new wood chipper, especially designed for fibrous wood like that of coconut trees, has arrived on island and will be used for grinding up old coconut logs and debris that are the preferred breeding places for the beetles. This addition may result in the development of large scale composting of green waste on Guam.

With $25,000 grant from USDA APHIS, a New Zealand scientist, Trevor Jackson, was contacted to obtain and release a bio-control organism into the rhino beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros, population. Produced in a New Zealand laboratory, this naturally occurring bio-control virus, orycto virus, is very host-specific, targeting only rhino beetles. It is dispersed using autodissemination: adult beetles are fed a solution of the virus, become infected, and then they are released to infect the resident population. It will take several months to see the results. "The bio-control agent will not completely eradicate the CRB, but it will help to keep it under control," says Moore.

Sadanand Lal, formerly an entomologist with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community in Fiji, was on Guam in October for the initial release of the virus, which will have an adverse effect on the stomach walls of the beetles, resulting in death. This latest tactic in the CRB saga is true international collaboration at its best. The virus is naturally occurring and was originally discovered in Malaysia, cultured in New Zealand laboratories and released on Guam.

WPTRC scientists in collaboration with government entities and colleagues worldwide are making a difference for Guam and the region.

Source: University of Guam

Explore further: Stanford researchers rethink 'natural' habitat for wildlife

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Guam rhino beetles got rhythm

Apr 14, 2009

In May 2008 the island of Guam became a living laboratory for scientists as they attached acoustic equipment to coconut trees in order to listen for rhinoceros beetles. A grant from USDA IPM allowed Richard Mankin, a recognized ...

Entomologists play matchmakers for cerambycid beetles

Aug 05, 2008

( -- Cerambycid beetles, also known as long-horned beetles, can cause severe damage to standing trees, logs and lumber. How then might they be promptly detected and their numbers swiftly controlled? ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Apr 18, 2014

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Scientists tether lionfish to Cayman reefs

Apr 18, 2014

Research done by U.S. scientists in the Cayman Islands suggests that native predators can be trained to gobble up invasive lionfish that colonize regional reefs and voraciously prey on juvenile marine creatures.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

( —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

( —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.