Hawaii on red alert after coconut rhinoceros beetle larvae found in Maui
A significant discovery was made on Tuesday when seventeen live coconut rhinoceros beetle larvae were unearthed in Kīhei. The larvae were found by an arborist who was contracted to remove twelve dead coconut palm trees. The arborist alerted the Maui Invasive Species Committee (MISC), who in turn notified the Maui Plant Pest Control Branch of the Hawai’i Department of Agriculture (HDOA).
Promptly, a team from HDOA and MISC rushed to the site near Līpoa Parkway, along Ala Hula St. The arborist and his crew proceeded to cut down the remaining palm trees. Together with HDOA staff, they collected seventeen larvae from one of the trees. Seven of these larvae were sent to O’ahu for identification and were confirmed as CRB by a state entomologist.
While no larvae were found in the other eleven trees, and there have been no detections of adult CRBs or indications of CRB feeding damage, authorities are taking precautionary measures. All coconut material from the twelve trees was chipped and contained in a twenty-foot container and fumigated to eliminate any potential larvae or CRB eggs. Additionally, HDOA and MISC staff will continue to conduct surveys in the area, and any suspect palms will be removed.
In the wake of this discovery, HDOA’s Plant Quarantine Branch inspectors have intensified their inspections and surveillance of CRB host material. This includes sifting through commercial compost piles and inspecting pallets of bagged compost arriving on Maui.
CRB was first detected in Hawai’i in December 2013 on O’ahu. Since then, it has gradually spread from Central and West O’ahu to the North Shore and the windward side. The exact manner in which the beetles arrived in Hawai’i remains a mystery.
CRB is a formidable pest of palm trees, particularly coconut palms. Adult beetles bore into the crowns of palm trees to feed on the tree’s sap. It is a major threat to palm trees in various regions, including India, the Philippines, Palau, Fiji, Wallis, Nukunono, American and Western Samoa, and Guam.