Insect Destroying Coconut Trees In The Philippines Worries Palau

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Quarantine officials put on alert to prevent introduction of scale insect

KOROR, Palau (Island Times, August 7, 2014) – The Bureau of Agriculture (BOA) is concerned about an outbreak of an insect that is destroying coconut trees in the Philippines. BOA Director Fred Sengebau has instructed Quarantine officers to be on the lookout for any green coconut or other palm products, banana leaves or mangosteen fruits from the Philippines to prevent this insect from spreading to Palau, where it could devastate coconut and other palm trees. Toechel, the nipa palm, is also reported to be very susceptible to this insect. Toechel is an important part of mangrove ecosystems, as well as being an important contributor to the local economy and culture.

The scale insect (scientific name Aspidiotus rigidus) was first found in the Philippines in 2009; since then it has spread throughout the country, and has killed hundreds of thousands of coconut trees. The insects look like the usual transparent scale found on coconut palms, appearing as small orange to yellow spots living underneath translucent scale covers about 1/16 to 1/8 inch in diameter, mostly on the leaf undersides. According to a scholarly report, "The scale insect encrusts the lower leaf surfaces; … the foliage yellows and dries; fruits form less nutmeat; the water inside the nuts tastes sour; and the tree dies in 6 months or less. …. Some farmers have been forced to cut down dying trees and sell them as lumber to mitigate losses."

Due to the proximity of the Philippines to Palau, BOA Director Fred Sengebau has directed Quarantine to be especially vigilant when inspecting incoming luggage and cargo from the Philippines, to prevent this insect from entering Palau. Incoming passengers from the Philippines, as well as importers, are requested to be careful not to bring any green coconut or other palm products, banana leaves or mangosteen fruit into Palau.

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