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Plantwise Technical Factsheet

greater bandicoot rat (Bandicota indica)

Host plants / species affected
Arachis hypogaea (groundnut)
Elaeis guineensis (African oil palm)
Oryza sativa (rice)
Triticum (wheat)
List of symptoms/signs
Fruit  -  external feeding
Growing point  -  external feeding
Inflorescence  -  external feeding
Roots  -  external feeding
Seeds  -  external feeding
Stems  -  external feeding
Van Peenen (1969) described the B. indica specimens that he collected in South Vietnam. Although it may be mistaken for a huge Rattus norvegicus, B. indica has darker pelage and is shaggier. It has long black guard hairs which are conspicuous in the midline of the back and about the rump. Its belly is grey and is not sharply demarcated from the flanks. The feet are 'thick' and the tail is dark-brown all over. Harrison and Quah (1962) described the bandicoot rats (in Malaysia) as thickset animals with short tails and coarse, dark-brownish-grey fur and gave a key. Niethammer (1981) noted that B. indica is nearly black on the central side, with grey feet and a black tail.

B. indica specimens collected in Bangladesh were dark-grey, with slightly lighter underparts; it is very similar in appearance to B. bengalensis, but B. indica is much larger (350-1000 g body weight). The hind foot of B. indica is dark, its tail is shorter than its head and uniformly black in colour (Posamentier and Van Elsen, 1984).

Other morphological characteristics are summarized below. The collection site for the specimen/s is indicated (where known).

Total length
470-560 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)

Head and body length
>200 mm, Malaysia (Harrison and Quah, 1962)
200-300 mm (Medway, 1978)
250-330 mm (Niethammer, 1981)

Tail length
>160 (Harrison and Quah, 1962)
205-280 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)
80-105% of head and body length (Medway, 1978)
240-340 mm (Niethammer, 1981)

25-33 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)
30-40 mm (Niethammer, 1981)

Hind foot
>40 mm, Malaysia (Harrison and Quah, 1962)
51-59 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)
42-52 mm (Medway, 1978)
50-60 mm (Niethammer, 1981)
>40 mm, Bangladesh (Posamentier, 1989)

Skull length
~50 mm, Malaysia (Harrison and Quah, 1962)
55.5-65.9 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)

<20% of skull length, Malaysia (Harrison and Quah, 1962)

Maxillary toothrow
11.1-12.0 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)

Upper toothrow
>10 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)

Width of upper incisors
5.2-6.2 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)

Zygomatic breadth
29.4-33.7 mm, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)

3 + 3 = 12, South Vietnam (Van Peenen, 1969)
Prevention and control

Chemical Control

Due to the variable regulations around (de-)registration of pesticides, we are for the moment not including any specific chemical control recommendations. For further information, we recommend you visit the following resources:

Impact on Agriculture

Most of the studies on damage caused by B. indica also consider other pest species, including B. bengalensis: it is not always possible to extract the losses due to B. indica alone. Most of the studies on the economic impact of these pest species on agricultural crops are from Bangladesh, where B. indica is considered a primary pest of grains such as rice and wheat. Losses may be estimated from the amount of crop damage at key stages of development (Poche et al. 1982; Islam et al., 1993) or from the amount of grain cached in burrows and the burrow density over an area (Poche et al., 1982; Ahmed et al., 1986; Valvano and Mitchell, 1986; Posamentier, 1989).

In Bangladesh, a simulated damage study with B. bengalensis (Haque et al., 1984) estimated that an average of 104 ears were cut per day per rat: this is equivalent to 112 g of dried paddy rice. Valvano and Mitchell (1986) estimated that the average loss per rat burrow was 1-3.5 kg (wheat) and 1.7 kg (rice); losses of 19-119 (mean=58) kg of cached rice per hectare were estimated from bandicoot rat burrows in Bangladesh (Ahmed et al., 1986).

In deepwater rice in Bangladesh, yield loss has been estimated at 5-10% in many fields, with 33-83% of fields attacked by two bandicoot species and three other rodent species (Catling and Yasin, 1981), and at 2-12% (mean = 6%) yield loss per hectare in 12 districts (Ahmed et al., 1986). In Thailand, a 1976-1978 damage survey (Weis, 1981) estimated that eight rodent species, including B. indica, had caused losses of 6.9% (1.2 million tons, equivalent to US$ 180 million). In Bangladesh, estimated losses to deepwater rice were US$ 10.23/ha (Posamentier and Van Elsen, 1984), and national combined losses to rice and wheat caused by rats were estimated at 20 million MT (US$ 25 million) (Posamentier, 1989).

Losses to oil palms in Thailand have been estimated at 6-36%, with B. indica and Rattus losea damaging palms that are less than 4 years old and R. tiomanicus and R. diardii damaging older palms (Singleton and Petch, 1994). In Myanmar, rats cause extensive damage to groundnuts at certain times of the year (Weis, 1981).

Impact on Public Health

Gratz (1988) reported the importance of B. indica as a vector of rat lungworm, a nematode (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that is widespread in South-East Asia. The typical symptoms of angiostrongyliasis disease, which is caused by the third-stage larvae, resemble meningitis (Singleton and Petch, 1994). Both humans and rodents can act as the primary host for the lungworm.

The adult A. cantonensis lives in the lungs of the primary host, a rodent. Eggs develop into first-stage larvae that crawl up the rodent's trachea and are swallowed and passed out with the faeces. Several molluscs act as the intermediate hosts by ingesting larvae when feeding on rodent faeces. After several weeks' development in the molluscs, the third-stage larvae infect the primary host (rodents or humans), leading to high levels of infection.

After infection, A. cantonensis enters the circulatory system of the gut, and is carried passively to the heart. Some larvae migrate via the pulmonary artery to the lungs, others reach the brain, spinal cord and nerve roots. The lungworms undergo two moults in the tissue and then the adults leave the brain for the lungs via dilated cerebral veins.

In Myanmar, one specimen of B. indica (out of four examined) was positive for murine typhus (from indirect fluorescent antibody tests); however, this specimen was negative for plague (Weis, 1981).

Studies in Thailand (Harinasuta et al., 1976; Thanongsak et al., 1983) have shown that B. indica in the north-eastern part of the country are seropositive for Leptospira autumnalis and L. javanica.
Related treatment support
Pest Management Decision Guides
Thailand, Bureau of Rice Research and Development, Rice Department; CABI, 2013, English language
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