AS OF the first quarter of this year, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) has previously reported two million to three million coconut tree losses nationwide due to cocolisap bugs infestation and unregulated tree cuttings.
Because of this, they have come up with measures to help lessen, if not fully eradicate, the cocolisap.
In an interview with PCA member of the board Roque Quimpan said they have developed and produced in massive quantity Comperiella – a biocontrol agent that feeds on Aspidiotus Rigidus, also known as cocolisap.
Quimpan said these are predators developed to control and contain the number of cocolisap to create natural balance and to keep them from fully harming the coconut trees.
“Cocolisap will stay forever. What is good is that we are able to produce in a massive scale the predator. What they specifically kill are the cocolisap only – the Aspidiotus Rigidus. Rigidus are really difficult to penetrate and to get rid of…Now there is a parasitoid called Comperiella. We practically produced Comperiella. As of now, the population could, in a certain period of time, somehow equal to the population of cocolisap bugs,” Quimpan told Sunstar Davao.
He shared how these Comperiella are small, black insect even smaller than small ants. They bore through the cocolisap they can find and lay their eggs inside preventing the cocolisap from developing into larvae and eventually into adults.
“If the cocolisap are fully eradicated, these Comperiella will also be gone as well because they wouldn’t have anything to feed on. They wouldn’t increase so much in number. Comperiella won’t eat or be a parasite to the coconuts,” he said when asked if there would be a possibility of uncontrolled production of Comperiella that may lead to it being a parasite as well. He said assured that Comperiella only feeds on cocolisap and will not be a future parasite to coconuts.
After 18 days of laying eggs on the previous cocolisap, Comperiella eggs will hatch giving birth to these small creatures replacing the cocolisap.
In Zamboanga, where they PCA did their pilot projects of eradicating cocolisap, the Zamboanga research center was converted into Comperiella laboratories.
“We established satellite laboratories and we practically converted the cocolisap-infested areas into a production area of Comperiella. We converted the whole of Zamboanga research center and all those areas of cocolisap, we practically converted them into the biggest laboratory of Comperiella. Where there are cocolisap, Comperiella exists for the sole purpose of only breaking down and killing the cocolisap. As the number of cocolisap increases, the Comperiella also spreads faster than the rate we can imagine,” Quimpan said.
He added as the number of cocolisap fail to reach maturity, Comperiella will disappear naturally as well given the eventual loss of their primary prey as well.
PCA had conducted programs to distribute Comperiella in different areas in Mindanao infested by Comperiella wherein the farmers themselves put these Comperiella in their trees.
“Before, coconut farmers lose hope in eradicating cocolisap but the benefits of Comperiella had been discovered. Actually, PCA can’t really reach all the areas with coconut plantations. So what the farmers did, they are the ones who come to us and tell us which places have cocolisap, so we help them. We schedule our visit and the release of Comperiella,” said Quimpan.
As Aspidiotus Rigidus or cocolisap was originally from rubber trees and had only transferred to coconuts as its leaves are believed to be “juicer” and “more delicious” for cocolisap, PCA said they also use Neem Tonic – an organic pesticide to help kill these parasites.
Neem tonic is noted to be effective, not just to coconuts but as well as to other trees infested by cocolisap and other pests. Quimpan emphasized that they used organic pesticide as they didn’t want to cause further damages to the plants.