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The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle

A New Invasive Pest in Hawaii
In December 2013, an adult coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) was trapped in a pest survey trap at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii.  Since the initial find, survey specialists have detected additional adults in traps in the same area.  They identified two breeding sites in compost piles located at golf courses on the base.

Damage It Causes
 

The adult CRB damages coconut and other palms.  They bore into the center of the crown (or top), where they injure young, growing tissue and feed on the sap.  This damage can significantly reduce coconut production and kill the palms.  Younger palms are more vulnerable than mature ones.

Coconut palms are an important part of Hawaii’s ecosystem, nursery industry, and iconic scenery.  Their beauty is treasured by residents and tourists alike.  Pacific Islanders deeply value the coconut palm for its cultural importance.  It was one of the useful plants the original Polynesians brought to Hawaii on their voyaging canoes.  That’s why Hawaiians like to call coconut palms and other Polynesian-transported plants “canoe plants.”

The CRB has also been recorded feeding on economically important commercial crops such as bananas, sugarcane, papayas, sisal, pineapples, taro and date palms.  If the pest were to be introduced into the continental United States, it could damage date palm production.  California is the primary U.S. commercial fresh date producer, with a crop valued at nearly $41.7 million in 2012.  Although a net importer of dates, fresh or dried, the United States exports between 5,000 and 6,000 tons of dates annually.  Date palms are also produced in Arizona, Sonora and Baja California in Mexico.



Signs of Infestation


Adult CRBs create holes in palm frond stems. Photo courtesy of Ernie Nelson, Greenscapes Inc.
Look for holes on the stems of palm fronds.  They’re typically large enough for you to put at least two fingers into. You’ll also usually see coconut fibers around the hole.  
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The V-shaped palm frond damage is a classic sign of CRB infestation.
Photo by Ben Quicocho
Also look for V-shaped damage to the palm fronds. The V shape could be right side up or upside down. This damage results from beetles boring through developing leaves.

Federal and State Response
USDA is coordinating with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture, the University of Hawaii, Military Leadership (Navy and Airforce) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickem the U.S. Navy, and the University of Guam to:

  • Deploy detection and delimitation traps to determine the infestation’s boundaries;
  • Survey palms for signs CRB damage;
  • Survey for breeding sites;
  • Remove the known breeding sites;
  • Limit pest spread by eliminating plant debris that could be used for breeding sites; and,
  • Conduct public outreach and education about the CRB and how to report suspected beetles or signs of infestation.


The survey information will help the response team to formulate its response strategies.

How to Identify the CRB
 

The adult is a big, shiny, and dark brown or black beetle.  It has a horn on the top of its head, which is why it’s called a rhinoceros beetle. They look stout, measuring about 2 inches long and 3 quarters of an inch to almost an inch wide.  The CRB’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.


Adult male (note the larger horn).  Photo by Peter Lillywhite, Museum Victoria, Pests and Diseases Image Library


Adult female.  Photo by Peter Lillywhite, Museum Victoria, Pests and Diseases Image Library.

The larvae (or grubs) are usually yellowish-white and can grow quite long, reaching almost 4 inches or more.  The larvae feed and develop in dead coconut palms and decaying palm debris, or other types of decaying organic mulch.


A CRB larva in a gloved hand.


A group of collected CRB larvae.

CRB Traps
CRB traps are equipped with both pheromone lures and solar powered UV/LED lights to attract adult beetles.  Traps are scentless and harmless to humans and pets.  Survey specialists service traps every 1 to 2 weeks.

The CRB’s Native Habitat and How It Came to Hawaii
The pest is native to South and Southeast Asia, but it has been introduced throughout Asia and the Western Pacific.  USDA and its partners continue to look into how it was introduced into Hawaii.  Invasive pests can hitchhike in international cargo and passenger baggage.

How the Public Can Help
If you live in Hawaii, you can take many steps to protect the State’s coconut palms from this damaging pest:

If you suspect you’ve found the coconut rhinoceros beetle in Hawaii, contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Pest Hotline.  Call or text (808) 643-PEST (7378) or e-mail stoprhino@gmail.com

  • Visit the Hawaii Department of Agriculture’s Web site to see more photos of the beetle and the damage it causes.  The Web page is http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/main/crb/.
  • Allow authorized agricultural specialists access to your property to look for the beetle, inspect mulch piles, and hang a trap.
  • Declare all agricultural items you bring into Hawaii when you return from international travel.
  • Do not bring or mail fresh fruits, vegetables, or plants into or from Hawaii unless agricultural inspectors have cleared them beforehand.



To report CRBs on the mainland, call your local office of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.  For contact information, visit 
www.hungrypests.com/what-you-can-do/, and select your State form the "REPORT A PEST" dropdown box.

For more scientific information about the CRB, visit the Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey website at https://caps.ceris.purdue.edu/webfm_send/2206.



Additional Information