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U.S. government says wekiu bug doesn’t need protection

The federal government has decided not to designate the wekiu bug — a rare insect that is found only in cinder cones at the summit of Mauna Kea on the Big Island — either a threatened or endangered species. 

The insect had been a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said studies over the last 11 years indicate the wekiu has a stable population and is more broadly distributed than previously believed. 

Surveys indicate the bug is found on 16 puu, or cinder cones, instead of just six.

“Based on our review of the best available information we no longer conclude that threats across the wekiu bug’s expanded range put the species in danger of extinction,” the agency said a Federal Register filing on Wednesday.

The bug is found only 11,500 feet above sea level or higher and was only discovered by biologists in 1980. It is tiny, with adults measuring less than a quarter-inch long. It eats insects the wind blows up the mountain from lower elevations and that are frozen in the cold, dry air. 

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