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Expert says green waste boosts rhino beetle population


By Julianne Hernandez
The longer you keep your green waste out, the greater the chances coconut rhino beetles will spread. That's according to a local biosecurity investigator who speaks with our Julianne Hernandez.

Sharing what to look out for and how to prevent the spread of the invasive species  by properly dispose of our green waste.

More than three months since Typhoon Mawar hit Guam's shores, and while there already seems to be work to rid the island of the green waste mess left behind, not all has been cleaned up just yet.  Glenn Dulla, University of Guam assistant professor and  biosecurity program principal investigator, said, "All the green waste generated by the most recent typhoon poses so many logistical problems for us."

Dulla admitting the problem is bigger than just the debris itself. He says the green waste piles leave room for the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle to flourish, noting, "There's been some research that shows the availability of Green Waste, which they breed in, contributes to the population explosions of rhino beetles. Especially with the most recent typhoon and the generation of so much a waste. We expect certain months of these of the coming year to be pretty dangerous for the spread of rhino beetle."

The rhino beetle first sneaked its way into the territory in 2007.  It's been a 16-year battle for  the Department of Agriculture Biosecurity Division and UOG to rid the island of these insects. 

"I know the Department of Agriculture is handling the treatment of the green waste to prevent or trying to prevent population explosions of the rhino beetle and other invasive species that hide in the green waste," he added.

"I guess my biggest piece of advice is to follow any direction or suggestions by the Department of Agriculture, because, you know, they are trying to take into account and control the rhino beetle through their processes of managing the greenways. So it can be processed a certain way. What is difficult to account for is all the green waste that's just laying off to the side, or like hiding in the jungle. So, again, my biggest piece of advice is to not dump your green waste somewhere in the jungle, because it can just, you know, rot there, become a breeding site, and it just creates more rhino beetles. Doing it and processing it through the government of Guam would be the best way to handle that."

Because of the increased volume of unmanaged green waste, Dulla says an update on the beetle’s population would not be available until possibly the end of the year. He added that green waste rotting happens slowly over months and the life cycle of the beetle in perfect conditions takes about three months. 

Although the chipping of the green waste will possibly accelerate this process, it still hasn’t been studied. His team won’t expect any changes for a while but if and when it does, they have the historical data to compare it to. .

Dulla also says that the eradication of the rhino beetle has to also come from the island public themselves. "I would just hope that people understand that, you know, they all play a role in protecting the island's natural resources. We always say that invasive species are everyone's responsibility. Yeah, and especially with something that's so widespread as the coconut rhinoceros beetle, you know, again, managing your own green waste in your own home makes a significant impact, at least to myself and our management efforts," he said.

Dulla says there are many ways people could dispose of the green waste responsibly.  Burning the waste is it is a great option if done responsibly with a burn permit from Guam Fire Department; hot composting and Manhita Farms up in Yigo is the only company so far that does this process but there is a tipping fee. 

Biocontrol treatment is another option, but there are no commercially available options on Guam yet and his  team does biocontrol treatment on a small experimental scale. 

As KUAM reported, UOG as well as Australia, Japan and New Zealand, are working on management strategies, specifically biocontrol.  So far, there are fungal pathogens that can kill the beetle and also different viruses. 

Research is ongoing, and Dulla says more funding and efforts are being put into biocontrol research.


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