Coqui frog infestation a big problem on Maui — that's keeping people up at night

Coqui frog infestation a big problem on Maui — that's keeping people up at night
(Image: Maui Invasive Species Committee)
(Image: Maui Invasive Species Committee)

HAIKU, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maliko Gulch on Maui's North Shore has a deafening problem.

Considered ground zero of Maui's coqui frog fight, the infestation is being battled like a brush fire, with giant hoses sending out citric acid to try to keep the pests' population in check. Experts say there are 20,000 coqui frogs per acre in the four-mile valley — and they're spreading to nearby neighborhoods.

"When they are right around your house, it's pretty hard to deal with because it's like the same decibels as an alarm clock," said Haiku resident Dave DeLeon.

Abe Vandenberg, Coqui Frog Project coordinator for University of Hawaii's Maui Invasive Species Committee, said sound from the pests bounce off the sides of the valley and project outward.

"It's like the gulch is an acoustic amplifier," he said.

DeLeon said his battle against the frogs has him feeling fatigued.

Coqui frogs come out and sing at night especially in wet conditions. Several nights a week, he waits in the rain and sprays his property with citric acid, which kills the coqui frogs but is safe for people and the environment.

"I'm 70 years old and I'm running around in the jungle with lights on my hat and trying to chase down these little amphibians. It really kind of drains you after a while," he said.

Before he moved, former area resident Bob Flint said he was spending $200 to $300 of his own money to buy citric acid to spray the frogs.

"You have to spray it and spray it again. It's an ongoing thing. You can't stop. You have one little frog that will turn into a lot of little frogs," said Flint.

Besides giving free citric acid to residents and even catching them by hand, the Maui Invasive Species Committee has ramped up its assault with large-scale spraying in the valley.

"We are spraying citric acid which is food grade. We are using it as a frogicide and we are spraying it in large areas with inch and a half fire hose. We have agricultural sprinklers which we are using," said Vandenberg.

Last year, Maui Invasive Species Committee got $1.2 million from the county to increase its efforts.

"We got the additional funding for our work due to the community going to the county council and literally playing the sound of coqui frogs in their back yards the night before," said Adam Radford, manager at Maui Invasive Species Committee.

These front line frog fighters say they'll need even more money to keep the coqui frogs from spreading to the rest of Maui

This year, the counties got another tool. A new law that lets eradication teams enter private property if owners aren't able or willing to be get rid of the pests themselves.

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