Invasive long-horned beetle from Australia attacking crops in Puna

Updated: Jun. 19, 2019 at 2:14 PM HST
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PUNA, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - An invasive new pest is starting to spread, and agriculture experts say it’s attacking crops in some areas of the Big Island.

There is no common name for Acalolepta aesthetica, which has been dubbed the Queensland Longhorn Beetle, a reference to its native habitat in that region of Australia.

The beetle is already damaging different trees, including cacao, citrus, breadfruit and kukui.

“This is a huge concern because this is diversified agriculture that’s so important to our economy,” said Franny Brewer, communications director for the Big Island Invasive Species Committee.

Adult beetles will chew the bark and then lay eggs in the trees.

Larvae cause damage when they feed and tunnel within the branches and trunk.

“Once that larvae is inside of the tree, there’s no known control method besides cutting that tree down and burning it or bagging it in a way that the adults can’t escape,” explained Brewer.

The bug is not considered a pest in Australia.

“It’s spreading fast. It was only in Orchidland, HPP (Hawaiian Paradise Park), Hawaiian Acres, but now they’re all the way to Pahoa and Hawaiian Beaches, and all they way to Hilo,” said Patrick Merritt, president of the East Hawaii Cacao Association.

A researcher in Hilo hopes to test commercial lures this summer to see which are the most effective for capturing and trapping the beetles. She also plans to use the insects for genetic work.

“It’s kind of boggling to me that there’s not that much in the scientific literature and so if people brought us beetles, that would be great,” said Sheina Sim, a research biologist for the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.

To find out how to turn in beetles or larvae in Hilo, send an email to the USDA.

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is not accepting samples of the beetle, but sightings may be reported to the Hilo office by calling 974-4146.

The HDOA created this fact sheet about the beetle.

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