The voracious brown- and black-colored beetles that have been feeding on Cambodia’s estimated 13 million coconut trees are now under control in Takeo and Kampot provinces, thanks to a tiny parasitic wasp, officials said Friday.
The Asecodes hispinarum wasp, which stops the Coconut Hispine Beetle by feeding on its larvae, is now being introduced in Kandal, Kompong Cham, Kompong Chhnang and Kompong Speu provinces, according to officials from the Ministry of Agriculture and AusAID, which is funding the UN Food and Agriculture Organization project.
“Cambodia will launch the campaign to release the parasite across the country if funds are secured,” said Hean Vanhorn, deputy director of the Agriculture Ministry’s Agronomy and Land Improvement department. “Our experience in Kampot and Takeo has been successful. The parasite was released into the environment, and it killed the beetles in the coconut trees,” he said.
But the initial grant of $50,000 won’t be enough to carry the project through to its planned completion in 2007, or to allow further expansion into Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and Mondolkiri province, AusAID project coordinator Pech Romnea said.
He added that an additional $35,000 is needed to help stamp out the beetle, which was destroying Cambodian coconuts at a rate of approximately 25 million per year.
Officials say that the wasp is a host-specific parasite, which means that it won’t spread unchecked without the beetles.
“The wasp and the beetle will keep a balance,” Pech Romnea said.
“If the number of beetles and larvae goes down, the wasp goes down.”
The hope is that a thorough one-time introduction of the wasp will permanently keep the beetle in check, unlike insecticides, which were previously used when the pest first appeared but only work as a stopgap measure.
“All the coconut trees in Cambodia have been infested with the beetles,” Hean Vanhorn said.
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