The Ministry of Agriculture yesterday issued a statement on its website warning farmers to keep an eye out for the khapra beetle, a very destructive pest known in scientific parlance as trogoderma granarium.
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In the warning, the ministry asks farmers to report to relevant agricultural authorities any sighting of the bug.
Hean Vanhan, director-general of agriculture at the ministry, told Khmer Times yesterday that the khapra beetle is most often found inside storage facilities, where it can attack a wide variety of products, and that is able to survive long periods of time with little food or moisture.
“This beetle can live without food for up to nine months. With food, it could live up to six years,” he said. “They are resilient to pesticides and we often see them in old packaged food or grain, containers, trucks, and other means of transport.”
Despite the ministry’s warning, the bug hasn’t been seen in the kingdom in over 35 years, according to Mr Vanhan. He said an alert against the pest was issued in 1980, but that, at the time, the spread of the bug was contained at the border after customs officers spotted it.
“We need to pay attention and prevent it from crossing over to Cambodia.
“The spread of the khapra beetle will inhibit Cambodia from being able to export the contaminated products,” he said. “If our country were to be listed as a country that suffers from this pest, the world will close their markets to us, particularly rice.”
The khapra beetle is considered of the world’s most destructive pests of stored grain products and seeds. Its damage often extends to at least 30 percent of products in a storage facility, but cases where it destroyed 70 percent have been reported, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The insect is native to India and is also endemic to the Mediterranean countries, the Middle East, Asia and Africa. It is able to survive almost anywhere in storage facilities that are protected from cold environments.
It is known for its “dirty eating” behavior; by feeding only a little on each grain, one tiny beetle can damage a surprising amount of stored products.