We are in awe of the fortitude, patience, and commitment required of the teachers of 2020. BIISC is committed to helping teachers provide place-based, environmental education experiences for the students of the Big Island. Whether you are in the classroom, trying to manage a “hybrid” model, or negotiating multiple platforms to bring your students the most engaging online learning experiences possible, we want to support you! [Read more…]
BIISC is happy to share some good news: one of the most notorious invasive grasses in Hawaii, pampas grass, has been eradicated from the Big Island! Both species of pampas grass known to occur in Hawaii, Cortaderia jubata and Cortaderia selloana, have been removed, and monitoring continues for any keiki that might appear at the sites of previous known locations.
Both species of pampas are on the state’s Noxious Weeds list. The South American plant was shipped around the world in the late 1800s, popular for the showy plumes used in fashion and decor. It grows in large clumps, with feathery white or lavender plumes growing up to 10 feet tall. As people planted it across the Pacific, it slowly began jumping from planting sites and spreading out into natural areas, disrupting native ecosystems in places like New Zealand, California, and here in Hawaii. It is now widespread on Maui, and because it is adapted to fire in its native range poses a significant threat as a fuel for wildfires.
Eradication Efforts on the Big Island
When the Hawaii Island eradication effort began in 2007, the plant was mapped in over two dozen locations including several places in Volcano and on the West side of the island. Although most of the adult plants were removed early in the eradication timeline, Joel Brunger, our field operations supervisor, points out the challenges of surveying for other pampas grass clumps near an adult plant: each grass clump is capable of producing thousands of lightweight seeds which are carried by the wind as far as 20 miles from the parent plant!
BIISC relied heavily on reports from the public about potential pampas sightings, carefully tracking down and identifying each plant to locate any previously undiscovered populations. Removal of the plants by BIISC crews took time, as permission from property owners was required for most of the sites. Locating and contacting property owners can pose a significant challenge for our control efforts, but overall most people were cooperative and eager to support the removal of an invasive plant from their property. The Hawaii Department of Agriculture assisted with securing access for removal of the noxious weed where permission was difficult to obtain. Finally, in 2019, the last known population of pampas was removed, and native mamaki was planted in its stead. BIISC botanists continue to monitor the area to catch any keiki plants that may spring up.
An Ongoing Risk
Despite the razor sharp leaves and potential for fueling wildfires, pampas grass is still sold throughout the world in the horticultural trade and used for landscaping. During the course of the eradication effort, BIISC developed the Plant Pono program, a nursery endorsement and education effort aimed at stopping the sale of invasive plants in Hawaii. Pono-endorsed nurseries voluntarily pledge to sell only non-invasive “pono” plants. There have been no sales of pampas grass in Hawaii for the last several years, although seeds purchased online continue to be a risk for introductions of invasive plants.
If you spot an online seller promoting pampas grass and allowing shipment to Hawaii, pass the info along to us! Often, just informing a well-meaning grower outside of our state about the potential risks is enough for them to stop any shipment of the plant to the islands.
BIISC takes the lead on early detection and rapid response to new invasive plant species, which means our teams search for new species of plants on the island and target them for eradication when necessary and possible. Efforts to control many of our most notorious widespread invaders like miconia, albizia, or strawberry guava came too late, well past the time when it was economically possible to remove those species from the island. There is only a short window of time when an invasive species can feasibly be eradicated. Once that window has closed, control strategies switch to other efforts, like containment, or at the furthest point, exclusion only from high value areas.
Currently, BIISC is targeting several invasive plant species assessed to be within the “window of eradication.” These species are not yet widespread, and BIISC crews are working to remove them now so that they will not become the albizia or miconia of the future. Visit our target species page to become familiar with our target species, and be sure to report any new or strange plants you encounter!
Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture has announced a new pest called the Banana Lacewing Bug (Stephanitis typica). This pest has a variety of hosts, not just banana. As of June 2020 this lacewing has only been found on Oahu. Please report any new sightings to Hawaii Dept. of Agriculture Plant Pest Control.
- African Oil Palm (Elaeis quineensis)
- Bananas (Musa spp.)
- Camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora)
- Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum)
- Champedak (Artocarpus integer)
- Coconut (Cocos nucifera)
- Colocasia sp.
- Edible Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Flowers (Alpinia spp.)
- Heliconia spp.
- Plantain (Musa x paradisiaca)
- Soursop (Annona muricata)
- Tumeric (Curcuma longa)
Researchers are asking for the public’s assistance in preventing the spread of an invasive insect destroying grasses in West Hawaii. The Two-Lined Spittle Bug (TLSB) was discovered in Kona late 2016, when a rancher in upper-elevation Hualalai first reported widespread die-off of pastures. Initial surveys found nearly 2000 acres were already affected. If you see the insect or suspect TLSB damage, please report to 643pest.org.
NEW MAP: SUMMER 2020 SURVEYS
A threat to our food security and Big Island economy
Surveys in the summer of 2020 have revealed that TLSB is now impacting more than 175,000 acres of rangeland from South Kona to Pu’u Wa’awa’a near Pu’uanahulu. The TLSB is consuming Big Island pasture at a rate of about 35,000 acres per year. Spittle bugs feed by sucking nutrients and fluids from the plant stem, weakening and potentially killing the grass. Although Hawaii already has introduced spittle bugs present, none have had such severe impacts. Like many invasive pests that arrive in Hawaii, the new bug, a native of the southeastern US, was likely brought in accidentally on imported plant materials. Now, it is attacking kikuyu and pangola grasses: critical forage that support nearly 70% of Hawaii’s beef cattle industry.
To make matters worse, grasses in open lands prevent difficult and impactful weeds from moving in. Where TLSB has killed off the grass, invasive plant pests like pamakani, fireweed, and wild blackberry, long battled by ranchers and farmers, have begun to take over. The loss of grass and surge of weeds have been devastating to upper elevation pastures in Kona, which have not recovered from the damage.
Researchers are extremely worried that the spittle bug could be transported to the iconic pastures of Kohala and Hamakua. Kikuyu grass is the primary forage in many of these places, and a TLSB introduction could devastate the cattle industry and significantly change the character of the landscape.
Threat to watersheds and forests
These new invading weeds also threaten native restoration efforts, which seek to return grass back to native forest. Brushy species prevent establishment of native seedlings, and are exponentially more expensive to control than grass. Increased propagule generation from thousands more acres of invasive weeds increases the effort needed to keep weeds out of intact or restored native forests.
What to do
Big Island residents are being asked to be alert about their lawns and pastures – patches of dead grass that cannot be explained by other environmental factors should be reported right away. As always, it is best practice on Hawaii Island to avoid movement of potted plants or live plant materials into new areas. Fire ants, ROD fungus, coqui eggs, and many other pests have traveled quickly and spread, on- and off-island, through this route. The spittle bug, very tiny in its nymph form, can easily attach to a plant stem without notice. Those who may visit Kona pastures or other areas impacted by TLSB– like hunters or ranch workers – should carefully clean their vehicles and equipment of any mud by washing out wheel wells and tires before traveling to other districts on the island.
Be familiar with the insect and if you see one, trap it and report it to 643pest.org. Early detection is critical in containing the spread of this pest!
Research and outreach efforts are being led by Mark Thorne, Range & Livestock Management specialist for the University of Hawaii extension service (CTAHR), email@example.com or 808-887-6183, and Carolyn Wong, USDA NRCS Grazing Land Management specialist, at Carolyn.firstname.lastname@example.org or 808-885-6602 (ext 105). If you are a rancher impacted by TLSB, please contact them for assistance. More resources can be found on the Hawaii Rangelands page.
Download CTAHR Alert Nov 2018: CTAHR bulletin
Download CTAHR Alert Mar 2017: Spittle Bug Alert March 2017 ver 5. (Final)
In August 2019, a resident from Puna submitted logs to the state Department of Agriculture office in Hilo. Those logs were the remains of a moringa tree, another victim to the voracious appetite of an Acalolepta aesthetica, which has come to be known locally as the Queensland Longhorn Beetle (QLB). On that morning, HDOA entomologist Stacey Chun piled the logs in the corner of the insect containment unit and reluctantly added moringa to the growing list of tree species being attacked by QLB. Already, the insect had been confirmed in several kinds of trees, including citrus, kukui, breadfruit, and cacao. It was the cacao farmers who had first raised the alarm on QLB in 2018, when growers noticed healthy, producing trees suddenly devastated by a mysterious insect.
The case of A. aesthetica illustrates the difficulty of managing new invasive pests. Although it was first identified from a sample turned in to the HDOA office in 2009, no subsequent specimens were reported for several years. The Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS), which provides tools and guidance for invasive species response in Hawaii, has estimated that one new insect species per day arrives at Hawaii’s ports. Most of the creatures that get here accidentally are individuals who will not survive in their new environment. Some will find their way and naturalize, but never rise to notice because they don’t cause much disruption to the world around them. But a handful will become pests that make headlines: coqui frogs, little fire ants, semi-slugs, two-lined spittlebugs. These are the introduced species that thrive in the Hawaiian environment, free from the predators and diseases that kept them in check in their home ranges, and able to exploit the environmental niches left open in an isolated island ecosystem.
When a few more of the new longhorn beetles turned up in 2013, it was clear that the insect had found a way to survive and breed in Hawaii. It was not clear what this meant. An investigation into the insect’s background revealed little, only that it was from Queensland, Australia and not known to be living anywhere else in the world – until it reached Hawaii. In Queensland, lush and verdant tropical forests surround landscapes of agricultural production, and never was this beetle reported as a pest. As just one of dozens of Cerambycid (longhorn) beetle species found in Queensland’s forests, this dull brown, cockroach lookalike didn’t particularly stand out. Very little was known about its life cycle or habits, or even which tree species it favored in its home range.
How it arrived in Hawaii was even more of a mystery. From genetic tests done by Dr. Sheina Sim at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Hilo, it is clear that all of the QLB in Hawaii are descendants of the same line, meaning there had been only one introduction event. But due to the Jones Act, Hawaii receives very few commodities directly from other countries. Most goods crossing the Pacific must first head to the mainland to a designated international port, then be shipped back to Hawaii from there. No direct shipments from Queensland appeared to account for the insect arriving in Puna.
Clues could be found in studying a closely related member of the QLB’s family, known as the Asian Longhorn Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), or ALB. Unlike its Queensland-based cousin, the ALB is a known problem-maker worldwide. In North America, where it was first spotted in 1996, costs of damage and control associated with ALB are now at nearly $1 billion. The ALB is so devastating that some European countries have taken the approach of killing every susceptible tree within a half-mile when a single insect is found.
The arrival of ALB in the 1990s coincided with the opening of direct trade between the US and mainland China, and the source of the introductions was deduced to be untreated wood packing materials which had delivered hidden larvae along with their cargo. Because the behavior and life history of ALB appeared similar to Hawaii’s new and unwelcome guest, researchers hypothesized that it was possible QLB could have arrived here the same way. But was it possible the larvae could have survived a lengthy trip across the ocean and halfway back again?
The moringa logs in Stacey Chun’s HDOA lab offered up an answer to that question. Nearly eight months to the day after the logs were set aside, all but forgotten in the QLB insectary, a live adult emerged from the dried wood in April 2020. It had taken that larvae nearly eight months to develop to full adulthood (previously, Chun had recorded adult emergence as soon as 3 months). Eight months was more than enough time for a clutch of insect eggs to have traveled halfway around the world, unnoticed as they slowly developed inside of their wooden nest, to finally emerge as full-grown adults in an unsuspecting new home.
QLB and ALB are not the first of their kind to move into new territories via untreated wood, and unfortunately they will likely not be the last. As humans enjoy the convenience and opportunity that new technology and increasing global traffic have afforded us, we must also contend with the downsides, one of which is the accidental movement of species into places where they have the potential to cause great harm. In the early aughts, in response to multiple infestations of new pests, the US and many other countries adopted a set of requirements that wood packaging material be certified as properly treated to kill pests. These rules were phases in and not fully implemented for several years, which is possibly the window during which QLB came into Hawaii. Subsequent research has also found that not all wood-boring insects are equally susceptible to the prescribed treatment methods, and that the quality and efficacy of the packing wood treatment can vary between manufacturers, so even with enhanced regulations Untreated or inadequately treated wood remains a potential risk.
More information, including a gallery of QLB photos and tree damage, can be found here.
Click here for Beetle Reporting Form. If you are not sure if your beetle is a QLB, you can email a pic to email@example.com for identification.
April 2020 Update. If you find a beetle: QLB have so far NOT been found outside of known infestation zone (roughly Hilo-Pahoa-Mountain View) in East Hawaii. If you find a suspect beetle anywhere on the island, you can email a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org, or use Facebook to message it to us. We will ID the species and let you know if it is QLB. If you are outside the known infestation zone, it is extremely important that you take a picture so we will know if the beetle has spread.
If you are inside the infestation zone and find a beetle, please report it using this reporting form. Please include a pic if at all possible. You can also use this form to report tree damage from QLB – again, include pics.
For live, captured beetles, there is potential for pickup. Email us for arrangements.
Update from Hawaii Department of Agriculture Hilo Branch, July 2020
Confirmed host plants:
- Kukui (Aleurites moluccanus)
- Breadfruit (Artocarpus altillis)
- Various citrus (Citrus spp.)
- Queen Sago (Cycas cirinalis)
- Cacao (Theobroma cacao)
- Mulberry (Morus sp.)
- Trumpet tree (Cercropia obtusifolia)
- Kalamungay (Moringa oleifera)
- Norfolk pine cut logs (Araucaria heterophylla)
- Avocado (Persea americana)
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus spp.)
- Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
- Elder berry (Sambucus nigra)
- Gunpowder tree (Trema orientalis)
Unverified, but possible host plants:
- Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
- Tree spinach, Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius)
- Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis var. flavicarpa)
- Cycads spp. (Encephalartos Horridus, Encephalartos Laurentianus, Dioon Merolae, Microcycas)
USDA-ARS is still collecting live beetles! If you capture a beetle please bring it to our offices or contact us to arrange pick-up. Need a specimen holder? Come pick up a jar or container at our office for free any day during the week!
March 2018: An invasive beetle is attacking cacao, citrus, breadfruit, and kukui on the east side of the Big Island. The beetle, Acalolepta aesthetica, is believed to have been accidentally introduced through imported commodities from the Queensland region of Australia. Beetles in this family, the Cerambycids, are wood-borers and are known to burrow into wooden packing materials. Acalolepta aesthetica is related to the Asian longhorn beetle, infamous for devastating forests in North America with estimated costs for control more than $600 million since the 1990s.
The USDA Agricultural Research Service lab in Hilo is currently asking for live specimens of beetles for research. Dr. Sheina Sims and her team are looking to map the beetleʻs genetics, an important tool in early detection when beetles are found in the difficult to identify larval stage. Additionally, working with BIISC and the East Hawaii Cacao Association, the ARS team will be launching a trapping study to determine if there are pheromones or other attractant traps that could be used to find and monitor beetle populations.
This longhorn beetle from the Queensland area of Australia appears to have first arrived in Hawaii about a decade ago. The first sample was turned in from the Orchidland area in 2009, but for several years after, there were no reports. However, in 2013, HDOA received 3 more submissions, with a handful of beetles appearing each subsequent year. By 2017, it appeared the beetles had begun to spread, with specimens collected in Hawaiian Acres, Kea’au, and Kurtistown. In summer of 2018, specimens were captured in Pahoa and Hilo, indicating the beetle may be expanding its territory.
Adult beetles will feed on the bark, branches, and leaves of preferred plants, but the real damage is caused by the larvae. The females lay eggs in wood, usually in stressed, dying, or weakened trees. The emerging larvae will tunnel through the tree’s vascular system, creating tunnels that weaken the wood and interrupt the plant’s ability to transport nutrients and water. In one case in Puna, an infested Sago palm became so weak it collapsed under its own weight.
In addition to cacao, citrus, kukui, and Sago palms, A. aesthetica may potentially attack other hardwoods present in Hawaii, from important crop trees to native forest species.
There is no known treatment for an infestation of A. aesthetica. Adult beetles appear to be attracted to light at night, where they can be collected. HDOA advises that routine IPM insecticidal applications may deter adult beetles from selected areas; however, research is needed to determine how to address beetle infestation. The best strategy is prevention: be very cautious in moving potential host plant species from the infected area between Kea’au and Pahoa. Trees infested with the larvae should be destroyed.
Contact BIISC with a photo via email at email@example.com or on Facebook to report any beetle sightings. Beetles can be also dropped off at our office at 23 E. Kawili St.
August 10, 2018 Pest Release by HDOA:
We are committed to protecting our island and all of our wonderful community from the impacts of invasive species as much as we can, and right now, it looks like that includes the viral kind!
In aligning with current recommendations, we are taking these steps to limit social interaction and prevent the spread of Covid19:
- Our office in Hilo will be closed to the public beginning Wednesday, March 18.*If you have questions or want to report something weird, don’t hesitate! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, FB message, or call 933-3340 – we will be checking and responding to all messages (with maybe a slight delay).
- If you have samples of ants for identification, please mail them (frozen!) to 23 E. Kawili Street and we will try to get your to you results within a week of receipt.
- We will not be scheduling any new community LFA trainings or public speaking engagements in the near future. If you want to hold a virtual meeting for your community of any age and ask folks to tune in, we can make that happen. Just reach out and we’ll work with you to set up some “distance education” to keep us all learning through this time.
Please take care and follow all recommendations for social distancing and good hygiene. We look forward to seeing all of you very soon, happy, healthy, and ready to battle some invasive species when this crisis has passed. Much aloha from the BIISCuits!
Per Hawaii Department of Agriculture, Feb 2020, the avocado lace bug has been reported on Hawaii Island. If you note anything suspicious, please take clear photos from various angles that you can use to begin communications with DOA folks. Possible infestations on Kauai, Maui, Molokai, or Lanai should be reported to HDOA’s Plant Pest Control Branch at: email@example.com. Please include photos of the damage to avocado plants to help with identification.
A new pest of avocado was identified on Oahu in December and has since been found on Maui and the Big Island in February 2020. Pseudacysta perseae (Hemiptera: Tingidae), avocado lace bug, is a new state record for Hawaii and was first detected in Pearl City in December 2019. It has also been found in the Waialua area. Here are some quick facts, field survey photos, and photos attached. Please forward this information to farmers and growers of avocado. Further informational flyers will be forthcoming. Possible infestations should be reported to HDOA’s Plant Pest Control Branch at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include photos of the damage to avocado plants to help with identification.
Avocado (Persea Americana), red bay (Persea borbonia), and camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
SYMPTOMS AND DAMAGE TO LOOK FOR:
- Yellow blotching and chlorosis, scorching on leaves
- early leaf drop
- Undersides of leaves with black feces and eggs
- Adults and nymphs on the undersides of leaves
LINKS TO INFO:
There have been several bills introduced in the legislature this session which have to do with invasive species. Below are some of the bills that BIISC will be writing supportive testimony for this year, and we encourage you to read and consider each bill before sharing your own thoughts with our legislators.
The Hawaii State Legislative Site is very easy to use and once you have set up an account with your basic information, you can provide testimony in under a minute if you’re in a hurry! An optional comment box allows you to add additional thoughts and personal experience that may help shape the legislators’ understanding of an issue. Check out this helpful guide to learn more about the site or here for some tips on creating effective testimony.
Invasive Species Rapid Response Fund:
Update Wed 3/4/20: SB2713 has crossed over from the Senate to the House! This is an important step in the progress of a bill. The responsibility for keeping this bill alive now rests in the House committees and we will post if/when a House hearing is scheduled.
HB2265 was referred to the House Committee on Finance on Feb 14th and as of today has not received a hearing in that committee.
These bills support the creation of a special fund which can be made available when a new pest reaches our shores. Currently, those of us dealing with invasive species (including conservation and agricultural groups), are hampered by the lack of immediate funding to respond when a new pest is discovered. Although it seems easy to say, “Just eradicate it!” when we find something new and potentially harmful, in practice it just isn’t that simple.
Take the Queensland Longhorn Beetle. Because it has never been reported as a pest in agricultural or forests before anywhere else in the world (including its native Queensland) there is no information on how to control it- because no one has tried before! Additionally, there is almost no information available about its life cycle, eating habits, reproduction…all of which can be crucial pieces of information needed to learn how to control it. We need researchers with the right expertise and experience to get this information and use it to test potential solutions. Suggestions have been made to try everything from pesticides to detector dogs to biocontrol – but all of these programs take time and money to develop.
Waiting to set such efforts in motion until sufficient money and manpower is available creates more time and space for the pest to spread. Other places in the world with solid biosecurity plans in place have rapid response structures, with funding, available to respond to new pests, and we believe Hawaii should follow the model of these more successful programs and adopt a rapid response fund.
Positions to increase capacity for Invasive Species Control on Hawaii Island
HB1849 Would establish a new West Hawaii technician position for Hawaii Ant Lab, to respond to little fire ants in West Hawaii. 3/4/20: This bill was referred to the House Finance Committee on Feb 5 and as of today has not received a hearing.
SB2622 Adds 4 new positions to DLNR for invasive species technicians in the County of Hawaii. 3/4/20: This bill has crossed over from the Senate to the House! This is an important step in the progress of a bill. The responsibility for keeping this bill alive now rests in the House committees and we will post if/when a House hearing is scheduled.
SB3042, HB2532 Provides funding for research and response to the growing threat posed to ranchers, conservation programs, and homeowners by the Two-Lined Spittlebug (TLSB). The TLSB threatens the ranching industry and paniolo culture of the Big Island, and more than 150,000 acres have been affected in the last 4 years. Pastures are decimated after infestation, with 100% death of grasses and subsequent invasion by more aggressive brush species. 3/4/20: These bills have crossed over! This is an important step in the progress of a bill. We will post if/when hearings are scheduled to continue the bills in the session.
SB2623 , HB1861 Extends CBB subsidy program (scheduled to expire this year) to provide continued support for farmers fighting the coffee berry borer. 3/4/20: The bill has crossed over! This is an important step in the progress of a bill. We will post if/when hearings are scheduled to continue the bill in the session.
HB1862 Would prohibit bag limits on game mammals in managed hunting areas. 3/4/20: This bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on Feb 11th and as of today has not received a hearing in that committee.
SB2463 Would remove all bag limits for pig hunting on Mauna Kea, and would instruct DLNR to install one-way gates in conservation areas to help with movement of pigs out of sensitive conservation land. 3/4/20 This bill was referred on Jan 23 and as of today has not received a hearing.
Exploring invasives as resources
HB2015 Would fund a pilot project on Mauna Kea through DHHL to harvest the destructive invasive plant gorse and develop it as marketable product (like biochar). Update 3/4/20: This bill has been referred as of 3/3/20 and we will update if/when it is schedule for a hearing.
HB2639 Would authorize and fund the UH Economic Research Organization (UHERO) to conduct an economic analysis of the potential costs and benefits of albizia removal for commercial use and restoration to native and non-invasive species in Manoa Valley (economic information that could potentially be translated to assess Big Island albizia populations). 3/4/20: This bill was referred on Jan 27 and has not been scheduled for a hearing in its new committee.