With damselflies at the brink of extinction, crews release the insect on Oahu’s North Shore

Orange-black Hawaiian damselfly
Orange-black Hawaiian damselfly(Department of Land and Natural Resources)
Published: May. 8, 2021 at 1:52 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a race against the “extinction clock,” scientists are reintroducing native damselflies into the wild on Oahu’s North Shore.

A small platoon of biologists have been releasing orange-black Hawaiian damselflies to an area near Dillingham field.

Scientists said the only other wild population of the orange-black Hawaiian damselflies is in Tripler Army Medical Center’s vast campus, but said the location isn’t ideal for the insect population to grow.

To protect this rare species, crews have been releasing about 50 to 120 damselflies every week for nearly a year — and scientists said they are starting to see promising results.

When crews began releasing the insects last year there were only about 100, but now there are about 4,000 damselflies.

“We’re starting to see individuals emerging from the stream that are not marked, which means they are wild born,” said Dr. William Haines of the state’s invertebrate program. “That’s really encouraging to see they’re completing their entire life cycles in the wild.”

Haines added that they were able to see progress because all the released damselflies have a small number marked on their wings.

Scientists said the damselfly’s biggest predatory threat is the mosquito fish, which was introduced in the early 1900s to control mosquitos — but it ended up backfiring, causing damselfly populations to decline.

Besides Oahu, the orange-black Hawaiian damselfly is also found in small populations on Hawaii Island, Maui and Molokai, but it has gone extinct on Lanai.

Researchers are planning to do future releases on neighbor islands.

On the plus side, researchers said the damselflies can help control the population of mosquitoes and flies.

“They are an important part of the Hawaiian ecosystem. We used to have about 25 species of Hawaiian damselflies that are all endemic, so they’re only found in Hawaii,” said Haines. “They’re important predators of other insects.”

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