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Palm Pests and Diseases

Palm Pests & Diseases


There are many serious pests and diseases of palms in Southeast Asia. A selection of these are highlighted below.

Red Palm Weevil

How Do You Identify Red Palm Weevil in the Field? 
This video shows how to identify Red Palm Weevils in the field, from the morphological aspects to the symptoms that appear on the palm after the infestations.
The Life Cycle of Red Palm Weevil
This video displays the four developmental stages of red palm weevils: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The life cycle takes approximately four months to complete.
The Red Palm Weevil (RPW), Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, is an invasive insect pest that poses a significant threat to date, coconut, and many other palm species. Adult Red Palm Weevils are large beetles with a total body length, including the rostrum, ranging from 35 to 40mm. The typical colouration in adult weevils is predominantly reddish-brown (RPW). The red palm weevil undergoes a complete metamorphosis that consists of 4 stages (egg, larvae, pupae, and adult). Larvae develop within the palm meristem's trunk and apical growth tissues; as they mature, they enlarge and penetrate deep within the upper trunk areas. 
To highlight work being done in Southeast Asia on this serious pest the Action Plan team have been working with experts in Malaysia to draw attention to potential risks, management and research needed to address the RPW threat.

More information on the Red Palm Weevil can be viewed in the Video Learning Series and Part 1 of the Webinar Series (see below).
Red Palm Weevil Biocontrol and Management in Terengganu, Malaysia
In this video, we explore the actions taken by the Malaysian government to tackle the Red Palm Weevil, a major threat to palm trees in the Terengganu Regency.
This video features Asri, a dedicated palm planter from Terengganu who has embraced sustainable practices to manage and control RPW infestations.

Black Headed Caterpillar

The coconut black-headed caterpillar (BHC), Opisina arenosella Walker, is a significant pest affecting palm trees with its origins traced back to South Asia. Through their feeding activities, the larvae of BHC can cause substantial defoliation and, in some cases, lead to the death of plants.
The Life Cycle: The coconut black-headed caterpillar passes through four consecutive development stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult which normally takes between 49 to 72 days. The adult life span varies from 5 to 13 days. 
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Symptoms and Damage: The larvae of the black-headed caterpillar feed on the lower epidermis and mesophyll of coconut fronds which contain chlorophyll.  The damage reduces the photosynthetic area of the affected plants causing a characteristic scorched appearance. Severe feeding damage has the potential to cause complete defoliation and the eventual death of entire palm trees.  

Coconut rhinoceros beetle 

Coconut rhinoceros beetles (CRBs), Oryctes rhinoceros (L.), are major pests of coconut, oil, and ornamental palms. They are native to South and Southeast Asia. The CRB has invaded many islands across the Pacific and is a serious invasive pest there. 

The Life Cycle:
 The CRB has four life stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult, with the larva having three stages called instars. The lifespan varies between 9 and 18 months with females laying about 65 eggs during that time.

Symptoms and Damage: Adult beetles damage coconut palms by burrowing into the crowns to feed, injuring the soft, developing leaves inside. When the leaves grow out, the damage appears as V-shaped cuts or holes through the base of the fronds. The damage weakens the palm with severe attacks sometimes causing the death of the plant.

More information on the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle can be viewed in Part 1 of the Webinar Series (see below)

Webinar Series 2024​

The online workshop series brings together key experts and stakeholders from across Asia and the Pacific region to share the latest research and activities to address coconut pests and diseases. 
Session 1: Palm Crop Pests  (2 April 2024)
PDF Copy of the Webinar Presentation
Speaker 1: Dr Wahizatul Afzan Azmi
(Universiti Terengganu Malaysia)

Red Palm Weevil infestation in Terengganu, Malaysia, management and research.
Speaker 2: Dr Mark Ero (SPC)
Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB): Establishment and management in the Pacific Islands region.

Speaker 3: Dr Wee Tek Tay
(CSIRO, Health and Biosecurity)

Coconut pest management options through the lens of genomics with a case study on the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle  (CRB)
Speaker 4: Dr Le Khac Hoang & Prof. Tran Dong Hoa
(Nong Lam University)
(Hue University)

The invasion of Black-Headed Caterpillar (BHC) in Vietnam and its biological control
Session 2: Palm Crop Diseases (23 April 2024)
PDF Copy of the Webinar Presentation
Speaker 1: Richard Davis
(Ministry of Agricultural, Fisheries and Forestry of Australia)

An introduction to phytoplasmas and a case study on Bogia coconut syndrome
Speaker 2: Dr John Randle
(The University of Adelaide)

Viruses and Viroids of Coconut Palms: A case study of Coconut Cadang Cadang Disease in the Philippines, Coconut Tinganaja Disease in Guam, and Coconut Foliar Disease in Vanuatu.
Speaker 3: Dr Wee Tek Tay
(CSIRO, Health and Biosecurity)

Follow-up Questions from Session 1

Session 3: Activities and Future Strategies Forum (21 May 2024)
PDF Copy of the Webinar Presentation 
Speaker 1: Mr Chris Dale
(Australian Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries)

Coconut Pests Prevention, Preparedness and Response Strategies
Speaker 1: Dr Visoni Timoti
(Pacific Plant Protection Organisation - PPPO)

An introduction to PPPO strategies and activities in Pacific Island countries.
Speaker 1: Tanya Robinson
(Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of New Zealand)
Pacific Response Strategy Project to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle
Speaker 1: Dr Sulav Paudel
(AgResearch New Zealand)

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle in the Pacific - the next steps
Speaker 1: Dr Juliet Ceniza

(National Coconut Research Center in the Visayas (NCRC-V) Philippines)
Coconut Insect Pest Management R & D Initiatives for Eastern Visayas.

Further Resources

This review paper, systematically covers taxonomy, bio-ecology, invasion history, and current management of O. arenosella throughout Asia

This study revealed the potential and prospect of biological control, such as various species of predators, natural enemies, bacteria, fungi, and virus of the coconut caterpillar Opisina arenosella

This document is prepared by the RPW Expert Team with the support of FAO, to serve as a base for the discussion at the Scientific Consultation and High-Level Meeting on Red Palm Weevil Management,

 This excellent toolkit has been developed as part of the Coconut Industry Development for the Pacific, funded by the European Union. While the CPDT is intended to aid in basic training for the management of coconut pests and diseases in the Pacific, it has excellent resources for Southeast Asian stakeholders also.

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