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Prevent the spread of Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles

16 December 2022

From Danny Hayes, Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii - The coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) has been a threat to palm species growing here in Honolulu for several years. With the assistance of the public, the agricultural industry and military families, this invasive creature can be controlled.
Experts with the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii (UH) CRB Response team believe sharing information and collaboration can help stop the tiny animal from spreading outside of Oahu.

According to the CRB response website, Oryctes rhinoceros is native to Southeast Asia. It was first detected on Oahu in 2013 near Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) and the Honolulu airport on Mamala Bay.

Keith Weiser, deputy operations for CRB Response, believes it is important to control the spread of non-native species that arrive in the state and threaten the ecosystem.

“I feel that it is extremely important to manage invasive species in Hawaii because we have such a high density of rare and endemic species,” said Weiser. “The health of farmed land and natural areas is important to the livelihood, and enjoyment of residents and visitors.”

The CRB burrows within the tree and feeds off of the palms creating damage to the leaves that can be seen from afar. The damage to the coconut palms not only creates an unsightly pattern but can also kill mature trees. There are also impacts to the cultural uses of the plant.

“Coconut, known as niu in Hawaii, has been referred to as the ‘tree of life’ in many places in the Pacific,” said Weiser. “All parts of the coconut tree were utilized for various purposes including food, housing, crafts, transportation, and cultural ceremonies.”

Natural resource professionals at JBPHH have joined the fight in protecting local coconut palm trees from this invasive beetle.

“The Navy works with the [Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle] Response to monitor CRB populations, survey for CRB damage in palm trees, and identify potential breeding habitat,” said JBPHH Natural Resource manager, Sarah Howard. The base tries to help do its part by educating the families that live in military housing and working with groundskeepers to avoid creating CRB breeding habitats.

“All JBPHH properties have CRB, so they are all at risk,” said Howard. “Handling green waste in compliance with the JBPHH Green Waste policy is the installation’s best strategy for containing CRB.”

JBPHH works alongside organizations and state agencies like the department of agriculture, UH and CRB Response to learn more about the movements of the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

According to Howard, the goal was to initially get rid of the invasive beetle entirely, but that is very difficult to do without other public and private landowners being more proactive.

“The purpose of CRB eff orts have now shifted from eradication to containment,” added Howard. The goal now is to stop CRB from further expanding on Oahu and from making its way to neighboring islands.”

To learn more about the coconut rhinoceros beetle, and to see how to recognize what they look like, visit the CRB Response website at crbhawaii.org.
 
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