Can biological control overcome the threat from newly invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle populations (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)? A review.
The coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB: Oryctes rhinoceros Linnaeus) is one of the most damaging pests to coconut and oil palms in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Adults bore into the crown and damage developing fronds, which affects tree development and yield. The insect is native to South and Southeast Asia and was inadvertently introduced into the Pacific in 1909. It has since spread to several Pacific island nations and territories, causing significant economic impact on these important coconut and palm-growing regions. In the 1950s and 1960s, an international biological control effort was initiated to search for and release natural enemy species. Release of the Oryctes rhinoceros nudivirus Huger (OrNV) and the species complex of Metarhizium Sorokin (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae) was successful in controlling CRB in its invaded range. Recently a new biotype of the beetle, known as CRB-G, has spread into the Pacific Islands causing unprecedented levels of damage due to the failure of previously successful biological control agents (BCAs) to suppress this biotype. The re-emergence of CRB as a serious pest warrants a rigorous re-evaluation of potential BCAs and a new search for effective natural enemies if necessary. In this article, we review literature on CRB to (1) analyze past introductions of BCAs and their effectiveness; (2) identify potentially important natural enemies and their geographical origins; and (3) assess possible approaches for utilization of BCAs against the new wave of CRB invasion. Research gaps and directions deserving future attention are highlighted and a strategy for renovation of biological controls for CRB suggested.