The coconut rhinoceros beetle, which has already done extensive damage to the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, is making it’s way towards the Hawaiian Islands. And it’s target? The palm trees!
These bugs are large, hungry, and very difficult to kill. They make their way into the tops of coconut palms, drink the sap, eat the growing tissues, and rip into the bases of the fronds to expose the plant to disease.
“This beetle is really tough, and most of the pesticides that are legal for use in Hawaii do not work on it,” said Darcy Oishi, the state Agriculture Department official in charge of containing the beetle.
They first turned up in December on a golf course at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, right outside of Honolulu. Authorities deployed around 500 pheromone-baited traps within a one-mile radius of the golf course, and are urging locals to look out for the beetle and to clear away any debris that may make for a beetle’s love nest (breeding grounds).
Other alternatives under consideration include possibly releasing a fungus or a virus known to attack the insect in its native habitat in tropical Asia, Oishi said.
While how they reached Hawaii is uncertain, they do have an advantage over the situation that Guam didn’t – plenty of natural beetle predators such as birds.
Alternative steps are being studied in Hawaii, and will require extensive studies under “very contained conditions”. They then would need approval by both state and federal agencies. But meanwhile, the battle against the beetles will grind on!
If only the beetles plaguing them were those 4 handsome fellows from Liverpool instead.