Hundreds of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles found as eradication efforts increased

Published: Feb. 20, 2014 at 6:35 PM HST
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JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Navy, along with the State of Hawaii Departments of Agriculture (HDOA) and Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), as well as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine (APHIS-PPQ), is engaged in efforts to eradicate the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB), on the island of Oahu.

The CRB is a high profile invasive species and is a pest of coconut palms and other palm species. Immediately after the discovery of the beetles on Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam (JBPHH) property Dec. 23, military service members and civilians at the joint base joined with state and federal agencies to combat the spread of the invasive threat.

Four breeding areas were located in mulch piles along the Mamala Bay Golf Course on JBPHH.  To effectively eliminate the invasive pest, APHIS and program cooperators must survey and remove all life stages of the CRB from the compost piles and other vegetative debris.  The debris has been excavated and ground twice on site, using a "tub grinder" similar to a wood-chipper but capable of reducing material to a smaller size.

Once the debris is completely processed it is placed on plastic in the excavation area and covered with secure bird netting.  The netting allows adults to return to the breeding sites but inhibits them from leaving.

The advantage provided by the Navy-funded grinding process is that it eliminates all but the earliest life stages of the CRB.  Adults, pupae, and large larvae are destroyed by the grinding.  With only the early stages of eggs and small larvae, this technique then provides time to develop and perfect methods for complete eradication.

HDOA is the lead agency in this effort.  Navy Region Hawaii and JBPHH remain in close coordination with State of Hawaii Department of Agriculture and USDA while also working together with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and University of Hawaii.

A total of 119 adult CRB have been captured near the Hickam golf course and beach, along with more than 250 larvae and 16 pupae.  More than 300 traps have been deployed in a two-mile radius, and thousands of surveys have been conducted by state and federal personnel in search of the large beetle. Navy Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303 (Seabees) is helping to produce the traps.

It is unknown at this time how the CRB arrived at JBPHH, and it is very difficult to determine the method of arrival.  It is possible the CRB could have come on either military or civilian flights from many possible locations.

Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam has the nearest green space to the shared runway and airfields of Honolulu International Airport (HNL) and Hickam AFB, so it is likely that invasive species could appear there first.  In early November inspectors at HNL airport picked up a CRB in luggage from a flight arriving from Japan.

Residents are advised to report beetles on the state pest hotline 643-7378 (643-PEST).

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