Russ Campbell, Guam’s territorial entomologist and Aubrey Moore, UOG extension entomologist, welcomed New Zealand scientist, Trevor Jackson to Guam in early June. Jackson was invited to assist in the release of a virus into the rhino beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) population. This virus only infects rhino beetles and it has been successful in controlling populations of the pest on other Pacific islands.
The virus is naturally occurring in Malaysia and is produced in a New Zealand laboratory. It is dispersed using autodissemination: adult beetles are fed a solution of the virus, become infected, and then they are released to infect the resident population. This method of bio-control has been successfully used in Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Palau and other Pacific islands where the rhino beetle was accidentally introduced. It will take several months to see the results. “The bio-control agent will not completely eradicate the CRB, but it will help to keep it under control,” says Moore.
Aubrey Moore and his assistant Bob Bourgeois are been rearing rhino beetles individually in mason jars in order to have healthy beetles to infect with the virus. Hungry beetles are taken to the Guam Plant Inspection Facility, fed the virus, and then strategically released into island rhino populations. Once the beetles are infected, the virus damages their stomach walls causing them to stop eating.