Efforts to eradicate invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle shift to - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Efforts to eradicate invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle shift to Leeward Oahu

Adult Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Adult Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle
NANAKULI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

The coconut rhinoceros beetle is a slow crawler, but after nearly two years tracking the species in Hawaii, experts have found they're also good at hiding.

The huge bugs that have been munching on palms from Diamond Head to Ewa Beach have been mostly contained, according to the state agriculture experts. But there's a new front on the war against the big beetles -- in Nanakuli.

Traps have caught 38 of the invasive critters since January. “We've seen some visual damage to trees, but we've not found the breeding site,” said Darcy Oishi, entomologist for the state Department of Agriculture.

That elusive breeding site is the key to their eradication.

Oishi says the beetles thrive in mulch and piles of leaves, which makes them hard to find. “Our efforts right now are to identify the area these beetles are coming from that we are picking up in the trap,” Oishi said. “We have not figured that out yet.”

The battle in Hawaii is similar to an even bigger problem in Guam where entire groves of coconut trees now look like giant toothpicks.

Based on DNA testing, scientists say Hawaii's beetles may have come from Guam.

The effort to eradicate the bugs there hit a setback recently.when it was discovered the virus being used to kill the beetles isn't that effective. Guam's beetles seem to have developed an immunity.

It's an ominous development as Hawaii experts try to stay ahead of our invasion. But there is a bit of good news.

“What we've learned in the year and a half of running this project is the beetle spreads very slowly on its own,” Oishi said. “We're talking about less than a mile at a time.”

So at least, it appears time is on our side.

Anyone who spots the invasive species should call (808) 643-PEST.

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