Researchers in Taitung have developed a compressed air gun as an environmentally friendly method of eradicating white-spotted longhorn beetles, which each year cause NT$140 million (US$4.92 million) in losses for tangerine farmers alone.
Anoplophora macularia are serious pests in orchards and forests, as they damage a wide variety of plants.
They particularly like fruit trees, such as orange, guava, lychee, starfruit, Indian jujube, wax apple, longan, fig and papaya, causing considerable losses.
Photo courtesy of the Taitung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station via CNA
Adult beetles are relatively innocuous, as they eat young bark and leaves, but their larvae pose a serious threat.
The beetles lay their eggs in trunks or branches and the larvae after hatching eat the tree from the inside out.
It takes more than 10 months for longhorn larvae to mature, making them difficult to detect and prevent before they have done severe damage, often killing the entire plant.
In the tangerine industry, up to NT$140 million was lost in 2019 due to the beetles out of a total output of NT$14.3 billion, data showed.
However, after five years of research, the Taitung Agricultural Research and Extension Station on Monday unveiled a deterrent it said is effective, efficient and environmentally friendly.
By shooting compressed air directly into burrow holes, farmers can directly target the larvae, expelling or crushing them without damaging the tree or other animals, the station said.
To ensure complete eradication, after an initial burst of air, the station recommends applying neem oil, narrow-range oil, lime sulfur or another organic pesticide, then using the compressed air to apply the solution inside the burrow hole.
Although the method is aimed at eliminating longhorn beetle larvae, it is also effective in removing pupae and adults that have not yet developed wings, the station added.
The equipment is easy to use and relatively affordable at NT$30,000, it said, adding that no other method is as economical, efficient, effective and environmentally friendly.
It is suitable for use not only in organic orchards, but also regular farms and forests, reducing pesticide use and environmental pollution, it said.
The station said it has also supplied compressed air guns to the Taitung Forest District Office for use in removing the beetle larvae from Australian pine trees, or Casuarina equisetifolia, planted near the ocean as a wind buffer.
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