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Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Found in Pearl City Peninsula

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) survey crews from the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) have detected an infestation of the plant-damaging beetles in small mulch piles on a farm located on Waiawa Road on the Pearl City Peninsula. This is north of the previously known infestation zone which involved mainly military property. Because this is in a residential and agricultural area, HDOA is asking the cooperation of property owners to allow CRB response crews to enter their properties to survey for the beetle, which destroys palm trees and other plants.

The new infestation was found during routine surveillance activities by the CRB team. That particular area was surveyed in April 2017 and a cursory survey on June 19th found a few larvae in a mulch pile. CRB crews were immediately dispatched to the area to conduct a more extensive search. Since then, about 206 larvae and two male adult CRB have been found in three small areas. HDOA entomologists estimate that, given the developmental age of the beetles found, it is likely the eggs were laid in April. Additional barrel traps were deployed to attract CRB in the area and more extensive surveys are already occurring.

CRB crews report that area farmers and residents have generally been cooperative with the surveys so far; but crews request continued access to check their mulch piles and other green waste.

Traps

“We cannot emphasize enough how important it is for residents to allow our crews to survey their yards if we have any hope to control the spread of this serious pest,” said Scott Enright, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture. “As evidenced in the past, the cooperation of residents is key to the success of eradication and control efforts.”

Due to the new detections, HDOA is expanding the survey areas from the H-1 freeway south to the Pearl Harbor Bike Path and between Lehua Ave. and Leeward Community College.

CRB boring damage

CRB response crews will be clearly identified with HDOA-issued badges and in marked state  vehicles. If residents have any question about survey crews in their area, they should contact the CRB Response Headquarters at 832-0585.

Currently there are 3,079 CRB traps deployed and maintained all over Oahu. The traps, which contain a CRB-attracting pheromone, are designed for early detection of the pest.

The CRB was first detected on Oahu in December 2014 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor – Hickam. So far, CRB has not been detected on other islands.

Adult CRB are dark brown in color and measure 1 ¼ to 2 ½ inches long. CRB larvae are white in color with a brown head and up to three inches long.

CRB Larvae

CRB are capable of killing all palm species and have been found to attack banana, taro, pineapple and sugarcane. The grubs live exclusively in decaying plant material such as green waste, mulch, compost and manure. Residents on the entire island of Oahu are urged not to move any green waste or mulch from any location as CRB do not move long distances on its own, but may be transported by humans. Oahu residents are also asked to inspect their mulch piles periodically for CRB larvae and adults.

Currently, the CRB team involves 27 staff which conducts surveys throughout Oahu. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC) and HDOA.

Headquartered at HDOA’s Plant Quarantine Branch, the team includes personnel from several agencies, including USDA, the U.S. Navy and Air Force, Hawaii National Guard, HISC, Oahu Invasive Species Committee, Department of Land and Natural Resources, and the University of Hawaii – College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources.

For more information, go to HDOA’s CRB Information webpage: http://hdoa.hawaii.gov/pi/main/crb/

Invasive Beetle Species in Hawaii Can Now Be Identified Faster With New Genetic Test

Researchers at the University of Hawaii have developed a new genetic-testing method for identifying the invasive coconut rhinoceros beetle, which promises to be much faster than existing physical identification methods. The new tool, reported in the Journal of Economic Entomology, could be a significant step toward keeping the species–a damaging pest to coconut palm trees that was first seen in Hawaii in 2013–from becoming widespread.

Coconut rhinoceros beetle and a similar species, oriental flower beetle, are nearly indistinguishable until they’ve grown to their later life stages, which makes early detection difficult. Currently, egg or larvae samples from the field had to be raised in a lab until their third life stage, which could take several weeks, before insect scientists could determine which species they were looking at.

However, a genetic testing method known as a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, can be used to identify the species with genetic material extracted from samples of the beetles’ eggs, larvae, or excrement. Researchers Shizu Watanabe, Ph.D., and Michael J. Melzer, Ph.D., of the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, at UH identified genetic markers in the beetles’ DNA that can be used for differentiation via the test. Once samples are received in the lab, the PCR assay can be conducted in just a few hours, Melzer says.

The new method will help “ensure that eradication efforts are being directed at coconut rhinoceros beetle and not oriental flower beetle. This assay will help to prevent any misidentification in the field,” Melzer says. “Such misidentifications might result in resources targeting oriental flower beetle, or worse, ignoring a coconut rhinoceros breeding site because the specimens discovered were identified as oriental flower beetle.”

“For species that require highly technical expertise for identification, molecular assays represent a reasonably straight-forward approach for identification, either as stand-alone assays or in parallel with morphological identification,” Watanabe and Melzer write in their article. “For pests of regulatory concern, rapid and accurate insect identification is essential, and molecular assays can address these needs.”

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Detected on Oahu

Another new invasive pest has been detected on Oahu, one that damages coconut trees and other palm plants. The Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) was detected at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Dec. 23, 2013 during routine surveys conducted under a cooperative agreement between the University of Hawaii at Hilo and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection & Quarantine (USDA-PPQ). Samples of the suspect beetle were sent to the USDA entomology laboratory in Miami and confirmation of CRB, Oryctes rhinoceros (L.), was received on Jan. 3. 2014.

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle

Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle

Coincidentally, the discovery of the CRB happened on the same day that Little Fire Ant (LFA) was discovered on hapuu (Hawaiian tree fern) at a garden shop on Maui and subsequently confirmed on Oahu. LFA had previously been established on Hawaii Island.

Since the discovery, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA) and the USDA-PPQ have been working jointly with the military and the University of Hawaii (UH) to survey and conduct trapping activities in the Pearl Harbor – Hickam area to determine the extent of the infestation. So far, nine adult beetles have been trapped.

It is a major pest of palms in India, the Philippines, the Palaus, Fiji, Wallis, Nukunono, American and Western Samoa and Guam. It is not known exactly how the beetles arrived in Hawaii.

“The threat of the coconut rhinoceros beetle has been a growing concern in Hawaii since it turned up in Guam in 2007,” said Dr. Neil Reimer, administrator for HDOA’s Plant Industry Division. “We have initiated the strong, coordinated efforts among HDOA, USDA, UH and other partners that will be required to effectively manage this invasive pest.”

CRB is mainly a pest of coconut and oil palms, but may also attack other palm species. Adult CRB are dark brown in color and measure 1 ¼ to 2 ½ inches long. CRB larvae are white in color with a brown head. (Photos attached)

They damage palms by boring into the center of the crown where they injure young, growing tissue and feed on the sap. As they bore into the crown, they cut through developing leaves, causing damage to the fronds. V-shaped cuts in the fronds and holes through the midrib are visible as leaves mature and unfold.

CRB is native to the Asian tropics, but was accidentally introduced to western and central Pacific islands.

Natural enemies of CRB include pigs, rats, ants, and some beetles, which may attack CRB eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. They may also be killed by two diseases, a fungus and a virus; however, both are not known to occur in Hawaii.

Suspected CRB on coconut and palm plants on all islands should be reported to HDOA’s PEST HOTLINE – 643-PEST (7378). This is also a toll-free number for neighbor islands.