Workers find coconut rhinoceros beetle breeding site in Oahu mulch pile

Some 3,000 traps have gone up around Oahu in an effort to track the spread of the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle...
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 7:49 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2023 at 10:16 AM HST
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WAIMANALO (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some 3,000 traps have gone up around Oahu in an effort to track the spread of the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle, an insect capable of destroying thousands of coconut trees.

The bugs have been showing up occasionally in traps in Waimanalo.

But on Thursday, workers at Starfarms Conservation Tree Service accidentally found a motherlode: An infestation in a pile of mulch that someone had dumped outside their property a few weeks ago.

“Lo and behold, our guy Andrew dug in one pitchfork full and these things just started popping out,” said Frankie Goodrich, a Starfarms partner.

Those “things” were the large white larvae that would eventually turn into beetles.

Starfarms called the Department of Agriculture. Starr members from the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Response Team showed up quickly to survey the site.

In all, two dozen larvae were found.

It’s been nine years since the pests were first discovered on the other side of the island, at Mamala Bay Golf Course near Honolulu’s airport.

“What happens is that the beetle hitches a ride with green waste, compost, moved accidentally with landscaping plants, things like that,” said Darcy Oishi, acting manager of the department’s Plant Pest Control Branch.

Ag officials had recently announced that they had lost the battle to eradicate the beetles on Oahu and could only hope to contain them.

Workers from Starfarms put the mulch into containers and had them trucked away to be fumigated.

“Luckily, they seem to be isolated to this pile, which is nice,” said Goodrich. “But we went digging and weed whacking, as you can see, all into the vegetation, so that we didn’t find any that were actually getting away.”

But other larvae may have already come and gone from the pile.

“Now that we’ve found one breeding site, we’re likely going to be finding more,” said Oishi.

If you see coconut rhino beetles or their larvae, the Department of Agriculture said you should call (808) 943-PEST. For more information about the coconut rhinoceros beetle in Hawaii, click here.