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Coconut rhino beetle eradication efforts focused on Pearl City area

  • COURTESY STATE DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE

    Coconut rhinoceros beetle

The battle against the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle, which destroys palms, remains focused on the Pearl City area of Oahu, according to state agriculture officials.

In the past four weeks, officials have caught 146 beetles in the Pearl City and Iroquois Point area, according to biological control section chief Darcy Oishi. This is roughly equivalent to the number captured the same time a year ago.

“In the last few months, we’ve been having particularly high beetle counts,” he said. “Some of our partners have engaged in green waste management, stepped up surveillance activities, with new information, and are more effective at finding things.”

He said progress is being made, however, in limiting the spread of the threatening beetles.

“What I’m forecasting is if we’re doing everything right, we will see a decrease in trap catchers in June or July this year,” he said.

The coconut rhinoceros beetles, native to Southeast Asia, were first detected on coconut palms Dec. 23, 2013 at a golf course at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, and eradication efforts have continued to the present day.

The state Department of Agriculture is working with the U.S. Navy and multiple agencies to eradicate the two-inch, black beetles, which bore into the crowns of coconut palms and feed on sap, leaving a distinctive, V-shaped cut in leaves.

While they kill coconut and oil palms, they have also been known to attack bananas, sugarcane, papayas and pineapples.

In 2014, the beetles were also found at Barbers Point, Campbell Industrial Park, at Diamond Head and near Mililani. In 2017, the beetles were also found on a farm on the Pearl City peninsula.

Oishi said a total of 3,093 traps have been deployed throughout the island of Oahu to monitor the presence of the beetles. Officials check about 1,500 traps per week.

The public can help by remaining vigilant of palm tree damage, and checking mulch and compost piles for beetles. Sightings of beetles can be reported to the state pest hotline at 643-PEST.

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