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Dermolepida albohirtum, the cane beetle, is a native Australian beetle and a parasite of sugarcane. Adult beetles eat the leaves of sugarcane, 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 grubs feed on the roots of the sugarcane during all three stages of its life. The crucial stage occurs during February to May, when it aggressively feeds on the sugarcane's roots, causing the most damage to the plant.
The grub burrows down to turn into a pupa once it is fully fed after 3–4 months of aggressive feeding. The pupa develops into an adult 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 and white.
Adult beetles are white with speckles of black, and often smell like rotten pork.
Female beetles lay their eggs in the soil of sugarcane about 20 to 45 cm (8 to 18 in) deep, generally choosing the tallest cane. A female beetle can lay up to three clutches with 20-30 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 brought into Australia. The toad was introduced as a biological control to protect sugarcane crops, as it was thought to eat the beetles. While it did consume cane beetles, the toad preferred other insects, and itself became a major pest. The toad population rose exponentially as native predators such as quolls (Dasyurus) possess neither resistance to its toxins nor the ability to learn avoidance; thus, these predators became locally extinct upon arrival of toads and suffered overall population declines up to 97% 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 their use.[clarification needed] Methods of control include applications of Metarhizium anisopliae along with 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.