There are probably no other insects against which the United States military had to intervene except for the Rhinoceros coconut beetle. It happened just recently, in the Autumn of last year when the U.S. Navy had to respond to the “invasion” of these insects at the military base in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The invasion left 175 trees infested and the military had to remove them.
The news made the headlines and got some good coverage but the infestation provoked by the Rhinoceros beetle was already creating important disturbance in many ecosystem in most of the subtropical and tropical of the planet.
The Asiatic rhinoceros beetle, known better as the Coconut rhinoceros beetle and scientifically as Oryctes rhinoceros, is a species of rhinoceros beetle belonging to the Scarabaeidae family according to Wikipedia.org. The rhinoceros beetle attacks the developing fronds of coconut, oil, and other palms in tropical Asia and a number of Pacific islands.
The damaged fronds show typical triangular cuts and the beetle kills the palms (particularly newly planted ones) when the growing point is destroyed during feeding. The larvae of the rhinoceros beetle, however, do not damage crops, but instead grow in dead, decaying trunks and other organic matter.
This beetle’s favorite habitats for breeding sites are dead, standing coconut trees and fallen coconut logs, but they can survive on many different types of decaying vegetation.
The eggs are laid in manure pits or other organic matter and hatch in 8-12 days according to recent studies. Larvae take another 82-207 days before entering an 8-13 day non feeding pre-pupal stage. The pupal stage goes between 17-28 days. The larvae is usually yellowish-white and can grow quite long, reaching almost 4 inches or more. Adults remain in the pupal cell for 17-22 days before emerging and flying to palm crowns to feed. The beetles are active at night and hide in feeding or breeding sites during the day. Mostly mating takes place at the breeding sites. Adults may live for 4-9 months and each female lays 50-100 eggs during her lifetime.
Coconut rhinoceros beetles favor downed trees as breeding sites, so the mortality of young trees may be the first stage of a developing positive feedback cycle that would be essentially impossible to contain once initiated. To prevent this from happening young trees must be protected and dead ones must be cleared in areas of infestation.
Here at Jiwa Damai, being located in the island of Bali in Indonesia, we are also struggling to support the healthy growth of our coconut trees that have been in some cases infested by the rhinoceros beetle.
In tackling this difficult issue for which there is no known cure at the moment we have developed by our own means and experience and collaborating with specialist from local and abroad a system in ten easy steps to help to coconut trees in our garden survive the invasion of the rhinoceros beetle.
The first step was identifying the problem and symptoms and ascertaining the presence of the rhinoceros beetle. We had found holes in the coconut tree trunk and the leaves of the coconut tree started to look brown and dead. That led us to believe that the Rhinoceros beetle had infected the coconut trees.
The second step was verifying the existence of the rhinoceros beetle in the coconut trees here at Jiwa Damai. There for we sent coconut climbers in the trees to check if the rhinoceros beetles have gone inside the coconut tree leaves. We also had to cut down some trees to see if the larva had infected the bottom part of their trunks. We found the Rhinoceros beetles and larvae from the trees thus ascertaining the infestation of our coconut trees with this insect.
In step three of the plan we went on by cleaning the infected leaves. The coconut climbers cleaned the part of the leaves that were infected. They were very thorough in eliminating only the infested leaves and not make any other additional damage to the trees. They also added salt and Effective Micro organisms (EM) a the top of the trees to help them fight the infestation with the rhinoceros beetle.
In the fourth phase of our program we proceeded in insuring that compost we use for the trees and garden is clean. The larvae of the Rhinoceros beetle are usually hatching in the compost because it has a lot of nutrients. We moved on to filtering our entire compost and found several Rhinoceros beetles and larvae from the compost soil.
Step five meant continuing in eliminating the infected tree parts and compost. We therefore burned the trunks and leaves of the trees that were cut down together with the Rhinoceros beetles and larvae found in the compost, to make sure that these beetles can’t spread to other trees.
In the sixth step of the program we went on analyzing the soil. This was necessary in order to know what kind of nutrition we should feed to the coconut trees.
We then next went ahead and provided the coconut trees with good nutrition in step seven. We digged and changed the soil around the coconut trees into compost soil and added effective micro organisms into the compost soil. This process was done without damaging the roots of the trees and only through digging a surface of around 1,5 meters around them and changing the soil with fresh compost.
After taking care of the material part of the trees we wanted to help also the coconut trees living energy in the eighth phase of our plan. We decided on sending some positive energy from ourselves to help cure them. We started a program where the volunteers and employees of Jiwa Damai hugged each coconut tree personally while sending positive thoughts and vibrations for the trees.
Step nine consisted in playing classical music for the trees. We started playing Mozart’s compositions for the trees to continue giving them even more positive life energy.
Finally, the tenth step was to set in motion a multi-year plan for the support of the healthy growth of the coconut trees and contrast the infestation with the rhinoceros beetle. We involved in the elaboration of this plan specialists in the matter from other places in the world with which we collaborate and exchange information about the progress, results and new perspectives in supporting the coconut trees to resist the rhinoceros beetle infestation. Here we are applying each tree with fungus which has proven to be noninvasive for bees and other insects.
At Jiwa Damai we take great care of our coconut trees because we realize and respect their importance and contribution to the ecosystem and the lives of other plants, animals and us the humans. Not only they provide us with fresh air and shadow but also stabilize the ground, feed the soil and us with their delicious coconuts. We use also use the coconuts from our tree to make oil, soap and other products that can be purchased by our clients and guests.