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Dermolepida albohirtusm, the cane beetle, is a native Australian beetle and a pest of sugarcane. Adult beetles eat the leaves of sugar cane but greater damage is done by their larvae hatching underground and eating the roots, which either kills or stunts the growth of the plant. The grub feeds off the roots of the sugar cane during all three stages of its life. The crucial stage occurs during February to May where it aggressively feeds on the sugarcane’s roots. This is where they cause the most damage to the plant.
The grub burrows down to turn into a pupa once it is fully fed after three to four months of aggressive feeding. The pupa develops into a beetle within a month. The beetles do not emerge from the soil until the weather conditions are adequate.
Larvae, which are known as greyback cane grubs, are small white grubs.
Adult beetles are white with speckles of black and often smell like rotten pork.
Female beetles lay their eggs in the soil of sugar cane about 20 to 45 centimetres (8 to 18 in) deep, generally choosing the tallest cane. A female beetle can lay up to three clutches with twenty to thirty eggs per clutch.
The beetles can also be found in the Philippines and are known by the local name salagubang.
The greyback cane beetle was, along with the Frenchi cane beetle, Lepidiota frenchi, the reason that the cane toad (Rhinella marina) was introduced into Australia. The cane toad was supposed to combat the beetles, to protect the sugar cane. However, the toad didn’t and became a major pest because native predators like quolls (Dasyurus) possess neither resistance to its toxins nor ability to learn avoidance – thus these predators became locally extinct upon arrival of toads and suffered overall population declines of up to 97 percent for the Northern Quoll.
Pest control against cane beetles also damages a large variety of other insects and invertebrates that can be beneficial to the ecosystem thus preventing the use of pesticides.[clarification needed] Methods of control include applications of Metarhizium anisopliae alongside other biocontrol strategies.
- "Sugar Research Australia Greyback Canegrub" (PDF). Retrieved 4 January 2017.
- "Belowground ecology of scarabs feeding on grass roots: current knowledge and future directions for management in Australasia" (PDF). Retrieved 27 February 2017.
- Frew, A; et al. (2016). "Belowground ecology of scarabs feeding on grass roots: current knowledge and future directions for management in Australasia". Frontiers in Plant Science. 7. doi:10.3389/fpls.2016.00321.
- Sallam, Sallam, Nader (2011). "Review of current knowledge on the population dynamics of Dermolepida albohirtum (Waterhouse) (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)". Australian Journal of Entomology. 50: no. doi:10.1111/j.1440-6055.2010.00807.x.
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