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The Conversation

There's a new tool in the battle of the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle

coconut rhinoceros beetle
Plantwise.org
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The rhinoceros beetle is considered a major pest of coconut palms and African oil palm.

Hawaiʻi officials are using new tools to fight the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle and its proliferation through the movement of green waste.

The alarms first sounded eight years ago when the military found beetles at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

Since then there’s been a joint effort to set large black traps across Oʻahu to monitor the spread. Teams funded through the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaiʻi check them regularly.

fumigation crb.jpg
Catherine Cruz
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HPR
A shipping container used to treat rhinoceros beetle-infested green waste.

State agriculture officials say they're using shipping containers to fumigate trees and green waste before disposal.

"We have a pesticide applicator, inject the fumigant into it, it remains in the chamber, and then once the system is done, and it's safe for us to aerate, then the staff can then go in, remove the treated material, and then dispose of it," said entomologist Darcy Oishi, biological control section chief for the state Department of Agriculture.

The containers allow them to treat large pieces of fronds and tree trunks that they would otherwise have to grind, compost or burn.

"This process is much more rapid in terms of treating for coconut rhinoceros beetle and killing as many beetles as possible," Oishi told The Conversation out at the Pearl City Urban Garden.

coconut rhinoceros beetle fumigation
Catherine Cruz
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HPR

Oishi said other tools to fight the beetle include injecting pesticides in trees, and composting and burning infested material.

"But really, the ideal thing is if we can manage our green waste properly, we can manage the beetle population," he said. "We have some growing hot spots over in Kunia, Mililani area. Unfortunately, we're seeing spikes in the population in these areas. But again, the core goal of the department right now is to minimize the outbreaks outside of these areas, so we can fully implement the tools and techniques to reduce the core population numbers."

If you see this species, call 643-PEST and/or visit 643pest.org.

To mark Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Awareness Month, The Conversation will have updates throughout February on the battle against invasive species across this state. This interview aired on The Conversation on Feb. 7, 2022. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

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