Taxonomic name: Oryctes rhinoceros (Linnaeus)
Synonyms: Oryctes stentor Castelnau, 1840, Scarabaeus rhinoceros Linnaeus
Common names: Asiatic rhinoceros beetle, bebete coco (French-Reunion (La Réunion)), black beetle, coconut black beetle, coconut palm rhinoceros beetle, coconut rhinoceros beetle (English), date palm beetle, dung beetle, escarabajo rinoceronte Asiático (Spanish), fruit stalk borer, Indischer Nashornkäfer (Dutch), Indischer Nashornkäfer (German), klappertor (Dutch), kumbang badak (Indonesia), kumbang tanduk (Indonesia), oryctes du cocotier (French), Palmen-Nashornkaefer (German), rhinoceros beetle, rhinoceros du cocotier (French), scarabé du cocotier (French)
Organism type: insect
Oryctes rhinoceros is one of the most serious pests of the coconut palm. Oryctes rhinoceros also has a record of damage, wherever it has become established in the tropics, to native palm trees and native Pandanus.
Imagos of Oryctes rhinoceros are large 30-5mm long and 14-21mm breadth, black or reddish black in colour, stout and possesses a characteristic cephalic horn which is larger in males. The pygedium is densely clothed with reddish brown hairs on the ventral surface in the female (Nirula, et. al., 1952) a feature which helps in distinguishing it from the male.
Please see PaDIL (Pests and Diseases Image Library) Species Content Page Beetles: Coconut rhinoceros beetle for high quality diagnostic and overview images.
Oryctes boas, Oryctes monoceros
agricultural areas, natural forests
Thought to be native to the southern Asiatic region, the coconut rhinoceros beetle was introduced throughout the Pacific primarily as a result of the increased sea traffic during World War II (Nishida & Evenhuis, 2000). The beetle breeds in dead standing coconut palms killed by pest /disease/ lightning, decaying organic materials like compost and sawdust heaps. (Bedford, 1980). Decaying pandanus trunk in Palau (Gressitt, 1953) and heaps of decaying cocoa pod shells in New Ireland (Bedford, 1976a) are also reported as breeding sites. In India (Kurian and Pillai, 1964; Nirula, et al. 1952) and Mauritius (Monty, 1978) heaps of cattle-dung were the most important breeding sites, in Burma dead coconut stems, heaps of rotting paddy straw and farm yard manure were most important (Ghosh, 1923). Floating logs containing larvae in tunnels might spread the pest to new areas (Bedford, 1980).
There are natural factors that keep the beetle under control in its native range, its introduction into insular habitats without these natural control factors allows it to reproduce quickly and spread to become a serious pest (Nishida & Evenhuis, 2000). The coconut rhinoceros beetle is one of the most damaging insects to coconut palms and African oil palm in southern and south- east Asia and the Western Pacific islands.
The imagos are the destructive stage, they bore into the crown of the palm resulting in wedge shaped or "V" cuts in the fronds that unfurl. The beetle feeds on tissue juices. Some of the crushed fibre is pushed outside the entrance hole, where it indicates the insect’s presence. In India damage of inflorescence is also reported in severely infested areas which cause reduction in yield up to 10% (Nair, 1986). Ramachandran et al. (1963) has reported a loss in yield of 5.5 to 9.1% due to beetle attack. From artificially pruned leaf damage stimulation studies it was observed that damage to 50% fronds corresponds to leaf area reduction of 13% and decrease in nut yield by 23% (Young, 1974).
In oil palm O. rhinoceros bores into the base of cluster of spears, causing wedge shaped cuts in the unfolded fronds. In younger palms the effect of damage can be much more severe (Wood, 1968; 1976). Attack by adults may reduce yield and kill seedlings. They may provide entry points for lethal secondary attacks by the palm weevil Rhyncophorus or by other pathogens, in some countries (Bedford, 1980). Apart from coconut and African oil palm recorded host plants include the date palm and a variety of palms grown for ornamental purpose, including Roystonea regia, Livistona chinensis, Corypha umbraculifera and Raphia ruffia (Gressitt, 1953; Bedford,1980); also recorded are pine apple, sugarcane, pandanus and banana (Lever, 1979).
Native range: South eastern Asia (Bedford 1976b).
Known introduced range: Oryctes rhinoceros is distributed throughout Asia and the Western Pacific. Bedford (1980) reviewed the historical account of this species, "In Burma the pest first appeared in the extreme south of the peninsula. It probably entered from Malaysia about 1895 and worked its way north throughout the coconut growing areas of lower Burma over the following 15 years (Mc Kenna and Shroff, 1911). It was accidentally introduced to a number of copra-producing areas of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It is believed to have been introduced in rubber seedling pot plants from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to the Pacific island of Upolu, Western Samoa in 1909 (Jepson, 1912); from there it spread to the neighbouring island of Savai'i and to Tutuila in American Samoa. In 1921 the beetle was recorded in Niuatoputapu (Keppel) Island in the Kingdom of Tonga, but it was successfully eradicated in a campaign from 1922 to 1930. Wallis Island, about 320 km west of Samoa, became infested in 1931 (Cohic, 1950). During the Second World War there was an increase in aircraft and shipping activity in the Pacific region; the beetle was introduced to the Palau Islands about 1942 (Gressitt, 1953), New Britain in 1942, and West Irian (Catley, 1969). Further establishments occurred in Vavau (Tonga), 1952 (Dumbleton, 1952); New Ireland, 1952; Pak Island and Manus Island (New Guinea), 1960; Tongatapu (Tonga), 1961; and the Tokelau Islands, 1963. The beetle was found at Suva on Viti Levu (main island of the Fiji group) early in 1953 (Swaine, 1966), and it has spread to at least 42 islands of the group, including all the important copra-producing ones, despite an intensive quarantine program to prevent this (Bedford, 1976a). An infestation of the beetle was reported at Tumon Bay, Guam in September 2007. In the Indian Ocean the island of Diego Garcia was infested during the First World War, possibly by beetles carried on troop ships (Orian, 1959). Specimens were collected in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands in 1940. In 1962 it was found in Mauritius (Vinson, 1963) and in 1978 in La Réunion (Monty, 1978)”.
Introduction pathways to new locations
Aircraft: Oryctes rhinoceros L. has been found alive in an aircraft hold and also in a polystyrene box containing tissue culture flasks from South East Asia.
Military: Introduced throughout the Pacific primarily as a result of the increased sea traffic during World War II, (Nishida & Evenhuis, 2000).
Nursery trade: It is believed to have been introduced in rubber seedling pot plants from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to the Pacific island of Upolu, Western Samoa in 1909
Transportation of habitat material: The beetle breeds in decaying organic materials like compost and sawdust heaps. Transportation of this material could be a pathway of introduction to new areas.
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local):
Water currents: Floating logs containing larvae in tunnels might spread the pest to new areas.
Integrated management: Integrated control measures adopted on a community basis are essential to bring an effective control of an Oryctes rhinoceros population. The major components of the Integrated Pest Management Package consist of mechanical, chemical and biological methods. Mechanical methods consist of examing trees for infestation and removing the beetle physically. Prophylactic methods (preventive measures) include the use of pesticides, napthalene balls etc. to repel the beetles. Oil cakes of neem and marotti (Hydnocarpus wightiana) have also provided good results.
Biological: Biological control of the beetle is the most important component of the IPM package. The green Muscardine fungus Metarhizium anisopliae M. is a pathogen which kills the pest in conditions of low temperature and high humidity. The viral pathogen Baculovirus of Oryctes (OBV) is very effective and kills the grub in 15-20 days of infestation and it affects the longevity and fecundity of adult beetles. Insect predators are frequently observed in the natural breeding grounds of the beetle, which feed on the eggs and early instar larvae of the beetle. The important predators are Santalus parallelus Payk., Pheropsophus occipitalis Macleay, P. lissoderus, Chelisoches morio (Fab.) and species of Scarites, Harpalus and Agrypnus. As these predators help in the natural check of the pest population, conservation of the predator fauna is essential. Restricting and managing the breeding sites could check the proliferation of the pest. Proper disposal of breeding grounds and field sanitation are important steps in IPM of Oryctes. An effective trapping method with rotting castor cake slurry kept in mud pots has been developed for rhinoceros beetle. More details are available from Integrated Pest Management Information Package.
A list of control options from Controlling rhinoceros beetle in coconut: India an article in 'The Hindu' July 7 2005.
- Collection and destruction of various bio-stages of the beetle from the manure pits.
- Incorporation of the entomopathogenic fungus, Metarhizium anisopliae in manure pits to check the perpetuation of the pest.
- Soaking of castor cake at 1kg in 5 litres of water in small mud pots and placing them in coconut gardens to attract and kill the adults.
- Longitudinally split tender coconut stem and green petiole of fronds can be treated with fresh toddy and kept in the garden to trap the beetles.
- Setting up of light traps following the first rains in summer and monsoon.
- Field release of Baculovirus inoculated adult rhinoceros beetle reduces the leaf and crown damage caused by the beetle.
- Mixture of either neem seed powder + sand (1:2) at 150 g per palm or neem seed kernel powder + sand (1:2) at 150 g per palm applied in the base of the 3 innermost leaves in the crown effectively controls the pest. (Ramaraju & Pretheep Kumar., July 7th 2005).
Please follow this link Ecoport: Macfarlane (2006) for more details on the signs and symptoms of infestation and management options.
The beetles can attack many different palms including coconut, betel nut, sago palm and dates. They can also feed on pandanus and other fleshy plants. (Vargo, 2000)
Mating occurs in breeding sites (Zelazny, 1975). The female coconut rhinoceros beetle burrows into rotting stumps, standing palms and rubbish piles to lay her eggs. The life cycle lasts from 4 to 9 months allowing more than one generation per year. In India average adult longevity is about 4.7 months and fecundity per female is 108 eggs (Nirula, 1955).
The duration of immature stages of Oryctes rhinoceros has been studied by various authors under differing conditions. Whitish brown eggs are 3 to 4mm long and take 8 to12 days to hatch. Developmental period is 1St instar larvae 10 to 21 days , 2nd instar larvae 12 to 21 days, 3rd larvae 60 to 165 days , pre-pupae 8 to 13 days and pupae 17 to 28 days (Bedford, 1976a; Catley 1969; Cherian and Anantanarayanan 1939; Goonewardena, 1958; Gressitt 1953; Hinckley 1973; Kurian and Pillai, 1964; Nirula 1955). Mature larvae are C- shaped, with brown head capsule and legs. The imagoes remain in the cocoon for about 11 to 20 days (Lever, 1979). Mating occurs in breeding sites (Zelazny, 1975).The life cycle lasts from 4 to 9 months allowing more than one generation per year. In India average adult longevity is about 4.7 months and fecundity per female is 108 eggs (Nirula, 1955). Life history data for Oryctes, and related species like Scapanus, and Strategus are summarised by Bedford (1980).
Reviewed by: Dr. Chandrika Mohan. Scientist, Pest management and Bio-control, Central Plantation Crops Research Institute (CPCRI), Kerala, India
Compiled by: Dr Chandrika Mohan, CPCRI India & IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)
Last Modified: Friday, 30 December 2005