Ninety years before we on Guam started dealing with the rhino beetle, it was the Coconut Scale.
The Coconut Scale is a tiny insect that damaged our island's coconut trees in 1924. Its scientific name is the Aspidiotus Destructor. The scale feeds off the sap of coconut and other trees, causing damage to and often the death of the tree.
The insect can travel to new lands by wind or on birds. It was suspected that the ones on Guam were carried by birds coming from Saipan, where the scale had already been active for some time.
Upon discovering the presence of the insect, the government started identifying infected trees and then burned them to contain the spread of the insect. Something worked to eradicate the plague because, before long, the trees bounced back and Guam continued to produce copra (dried coconut meat) for export.
Besides the revenue from copra sales, in those days, the people really relied a lot on the coconut tree for all the benefits it provided. The meat and juice provided food; the fibers made string and rope; the shell was used as cups and ladles. Almost everything from the tree was put to some use, and most people did not have money to buy substitutes in the stores.
Today, we hardly feel the loss of our coconut trees, due to the rhino beetle. We even buy imported coconut juice and imported shredded coconut for food. About the only time we feel the sting of the rhino beetle invasion is when we look for tuba and cannot find it.
Coconuts infected with the Coconut Scale insect