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The Oryctes virus: its detection, identification, and implementation in biological control of the coconut palm rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

The Oryctes virus: its detection, identification, and implementation in biological control of the coconut palm rhinoceros beetle, Oryctes rhinoceros (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 89(1): 78-84

In view of the increasing and devastating damage by rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) to coconut palms in the middle of last century, many efforts were made to find an efficient natural control factor against this pest, which could not be controlled by pesticides. The basic procedures of these monitoring programmes are outlined together with the final detection of a virus disease in oil palm estates in Malaysia in 1963. In extensive laboratory studies, the virus was isolated and identified as the first non-occluded, rod-shaped insect virus, morphologically resembling the baculoviruses. Infection experiments clarified the pathology, histopathology, and virulence of the virus and demonstrated that the virus was extremely virulent to larvae after peroral application. These findings encouraged the first pilot release of virus in 1967 in coconut plantations of Western Samoa where breeding sites were contaminated with virus. Surprisingly, the virus became established in the Samoan rhinoceros beetle populations and spread autonomously throughout the Western Samoan islands. As a consequence, there was a drastic decline of the beetle populations followed by a conspicuous recovery of the badly damaged coconut stands. This unexpected phenomenon could only be explained after it was shown that the adult beetle itself is a very active virus vector and thus was responsible for the efficient autodissemination of the virus. The functioning of the beetle as a 'flying virus factory' is due to the unique cytopathic process developing in the midgut after peroral virus infection. Pathological details of this process are presented. Because of the long-term persistence of the virus in the populations, rhinoceros beetle control is maintained. Incorporation of virus into integrated control measures and successful virus releases in many other countries are recorded.

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Accession: 004344142

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PMID: 16039308

DOI: 10.1016/j.jip.2005.02.010

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