Coconut rhinoceros beetle infestation found in Pearl City

Photo: Department of Agriculture

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is surveying the Pearl City Peninsula after an infestation of coconut rhinoceros beetles was found in the area.

The plant-damaging beetles were found in small mulch piles on a farm on Waiawa Road, about a mile north of a previously known infestation zone that involved mainly military property.

Since it is in an agricultural and residential area, the Department of Agriculture is asking nearby property owners for help in stopping the beetle from spreading further.

“We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for residents to allow our crews to survey their yards if we have any hope to control the spread of this serious pest,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “As evidenced in the past, the cooperation of residents is key to the success of eradication and control efforts.”

The new infestation was found during routine surveillance activities by the CRB team. That particular area was surveyed in April 2017 and a cursory survey on June 19 found a few larvae in a mulch pile. CRB crews were immediately dispatched to the area to conduct a more extensive search.

Since then, about 206 larvae and two male adult CRB have been found in three small areas.

State entomologists estimate that, given the developmental age of the beetles found, it is likely the eggs were laid in April. Additional barrel traps were deployed to attract CRB in the area and more extensive surveys are already occurring.

CRB response crews will be clearly identified with HDOA-issued badges and in marked state vehicles.

If residents have any question about survey crews in their area, they should contact the CRB Response Headquarters at 832-0585.

The CRB was first detected on Oahu in December 2014 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam. So far, CRB has not been detected on other islands.

The grubs live exclusively in decaying plant material such as green waste, mulch, compost and manure. They are capable of killing all palm species and have been found to attack banana, taro, pineapple, and sugarcane.

“The worst (a coconut rhinoceros beetle can do) is based upon what we saw in Guam,” said biological control section chief Darcy Oishi. “Over 50 percent of palm trees, coconut palms have been lost because of the coconut rhinoceros beetle and heavy winds during storms. That same scenario can play out here in Hawaii if we weren’t doing these activities.”

Residents on the entire island of Oahu are urged not to move any green waste or mulch from any location as CRB do not move long distances on its own, but may be transported by humans. Oahu residents are also asked to inspect their mulch piles periodically for CRB larvae and adults.

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