HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big Island ranchers went to the Capitol this week hoping to encourage lawmakers to budget for the fight against an invasive pest.
The two-lined spittlebug is smaller than a fingernail, but its causing big problems on Hawaii Island.
Researchers aren’t sure how they got here, but say they’re linked to spittlebugs from Florida.
Ranchers say it eats and kills pasture grass which impacts the feed for cattle. The small bugs have already killed an estimated 142,000 acres on Hawaii Island, and the devastation continues to spread.
“We estimated this summer that it was increasing at 35,000 acres per year. I think now, we’re going to have to readjust that. It’s going to be a slightly bigger number than that,” Mark Throne of the UH College of Tropical Agriculture said.
“What the spittlebug is doing is basically wiping out our carrying capacity in those regions until we can recover, if we’re able to recover,” Jim Greenwell of the Board of the Palani Ranch Company said.
The cattlemen’s council wants to use the funds for research to study the bug, as well as money to control its impacts and recovery.
Outside the briefing, anti-meat animal rights protestors held signs asking to end all state support for the cattle industry.