Sustainable Oil Palm Farming / Rhinoceros beetle

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Download: Module 5: Pests and Diseases


Figure 4: Rhinoceros beetle
Figure 5: Rhinoceros beetle damage in base of immature palm
Figure 6: Rhinoceros beetle damage in leaf of mature palm

Rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) is a pest which mostly infects immature oil palms (see Figure 4). While several options are available for chemical treatments to reduce rhinoceros beetle infestation, none of these is currently ‘standard practice’ in plantations. Rhinoceros beetles breed in rotting wood on the plantation floor, so good maintenance of the plantation is essential because it can help to prevent outbreaks.

The damage caused by rhinoceros beetle to immature palms can be recognised as follows:

  • Holes are present in the base of the frond (see Figure 5);
  • Fronds bend or ‘break’ where they are damaged;
  • New fronds are deformed;
  • Death of the young palm may occur, if the growing point is eaten by the beetle.

In mature palms infected with oryctes, the leaves have a typical shape with chunks missing. Leaf tips may also appear triangular (see Figure 6).

Rhinoceros beetle is a common pest in coconut palms, so if there is a coconut plantation nearby, attacks on oil palm plantations are more likely to occur. Severe infestation by oryctes can kill large numbers of young palms, so good plantation monitoring and maintenance are important.


  • Keep damage of rhinoceros beetle at a minimum;
  • Control the population by removing breeding sites.


  • All dead and rotting wood is removed from the plantation as soon as possible;
  • A good legume cover crop is established in immature plantations.

Timing and frequency

  • Removal or shredding of dead wood and establishment of a good cover crop should be done during plantation establishment;
  • Maintenance is necessary at all times.

Labour time required

Depends on the amount of dead wood and the overall maintenance of the plantation.

Equipment and materials

  • Normal maintenance tools
  • Wood chipper/shredder (during plantation establishment)


Farmers and their families or hired labourers.


To control rhinoceros beetle follow these steps:

Step 1. If dead wood is present, remove it or cut it into small pieces and spread throughout the plantation to increase the speed of decomposition.
Step 2. Keep weeds in the inter-row at a 50 cm height, with a dense canopy (see Module 3: Plantation Maintenance).
Step 3. After clearing a piece of land to plant oil palm, sow a legume cover immediately. The leaves of the cover plant will stop the mature beetles from finding the dead wood on the plantation floor and also stop the young beetles from moving up into the palms.
Step 4. If signs of rhinoceros beetles are observed, the plantation (as well as surrounding fields) should be checked immediately for the presence of breeding sites, which need to be destroyed wherever possible.
Figure 7: Larva of the Rhinoceros beetle

Note: Piles of empty fruit bunches can be perfect breeding sites for rhinoceros beetle. If there are signs of beetle damage, check under empty fruit bunch piles. If larvae (see: Figure 7) are seen:

  • Kill the larvae;
  • Turn the empty fruit bunches over and pull them apart as much as possible (to make decomposition go faster).

See Module 4, Applying empty fruit bunches for the correct ways to apply empty fruit bunches.

Data recording

Every pest control activity should be recorded in a logbook as shown in the example below.

Date Time Location Activity Input type Input amount Input costs Labour input Labour costs
People Hours
16/01/13 Field 3 Plantation cleaning 3 2 days 480000


The material from Rhinoceros beetle is sourced from Smallholder Oil Palm Handbook and put together by Lotte Suzanne Woittiez (Wageningen Universit) and Haryono Sadikin, Sri Turhina, Hidayat Dani, Tri Purba Dukan, and Hans Smit (SNV) in August 2016. See Module 5: Pests and Diseases for more information.

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