Beating the Beetles
The Solomon Islands is currently under a biosecurity threat from the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle. As the name suggests, they are beetles with a horn with a taste for coconut trees. They are seriously threatening the coconut livelihood here.
Last year, the Solomon Islands copra (dry coconut which is made into coconut oil and other coconut products) industry made about SBD 143 million from exports, so you know there is a lot at risk with these beetles. Even excluding exports, coconuts are integral to everyday life here. Most households make coconut milk from scratch, unused coconut meat is used to feed pigs, coconut shells are used for motu (hangi), coconut leaves are used to make baskets, and coconut water is an everyday beverage.
We were at an information stall amongst the coconut trees trying to learn more about these pests. The man from the Ministry of Agriculture had a nice brochure he was handing out and little plastic containers of the larvae and adult beetles. His message was clear: If you see them, kill them. He couldn’t stress the importance of stopping the spread of these beetles enough. “Killem die! Killem die!”
We looked at the larvae container. They were gross and fat, maybe the size of a thumb. Then we asked to see the adult container so that we would know what to kill. To our surprise, the biosecurity officer showed us a plastic container with a handful of dirt inside. No beetle. We asked him where the beetles were. His answer was not what we expected from a biosecurity officer who set up a stall amongst a coconut tree-heavy area whose task was to spread awareness about the importance of eradicating these pests. “They escaped last night”.