- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) - Guam’s traditional weavers say they’re worried that their craft could disappear if invasive coconut rhino beetles continue to destroy local trees.

The rhino beetles dig into the heart of coconut trees to eat and pass through undeveloped leaves. The damaged leaves grown in a V shape that makes them unsuitable for weaving, reported The Pacific Daily News (https://bit.ly/1OYvikR ).

Weavers say they are already having a hard time finding leaves, and the beetles are so widespread that the island will have to import coconut leaves from its neighbors for the Festival of Pacific Arts in 2016. Boats from the Northern Marianas would need to drop off fresh leaves every other day, weavers told the Pacific Daily News.

“For all the weavers that are coming, we doubt that we have enough,” said Rose San Nicolas, who weaves at the Inarajan cultural village of GefPa’go.

San Nicolas can point out a few trees at GefPa’go that weavers used to climb daily. She said it was easy, before, to climb up and get a day’s supply of leaves.

Now none of the trees has useable leaves.

She said she’s lucky to find one good tree for every 10 trees she inspects.

James Bamba, who weaves at SagganKotturanChamoru in Tumon, said he now has to make 30- to 40-minute treks along the beach and sometimes into the jungle to find leaves.

It’s particularly difficult, said Bamba, to make big items like hats or baskets without good leaves.

“I see in the next 10 years I probably won’t be weaving. I know it sounds so grim or dismal, but it’s not by choice,” he said.

Weaving is an important part of Chamorro culture, according to Bamba. He said the group has distinctive weaving that sets it apart from other islanders.

Researchers say Guam’s rhino beetle is a different breed and that a virus effective at control other populations doesn’t work here. They are hoping to find a strain that will be effective against Guam’s beetles.

University of Guam entomologist Aubrey Moore says the beetles seem to have become immune to that virus and that there is a fungus that can also be used to control the beetle.

San Nicolas said the cultural village is trying to plant new coconut trees, but she’s still concerned that the tradition won’t get passed down to future generations.

“It worries us because, like the old saying, how can we let our children and their children know? How can we show them?” she said.

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