New Hawaiian plant pest: coconut rhinoceros beetle

State agriculture officials are concerned about a new invasive pest discovered in Hawaii.

The coconut rhinoceros beetle is a major pest in India and the Philippines, as well as Guam and other areas of the South Pacific.

In Hawaii, the beetle has so far only been found on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Oahu.

The adult beetles burrow into the leaf stalk or base of the palm frond. HDOA photo.

The beetles damage the palms of the hands by digging into the center of the crown, where they injure young, growing tissue and feed on the sap. They also damage the fronds by cutting through developing leaves as they burrow into the crown.

The beetle primarily attacks coconut and oil palms, but it can also attack other palm species, officials from the state Department of Agriculture said.

“The coconut rhinoceros beetle threat has been a growing problem in Hawaii since it first appeared in Guam in 2007,” said Neil Reimer, plant industry administrator for HDOA. “We have initiated the strong, coordinated efforts between HDOA, USDA, UH and other partners necessary to effectively control this invasive pest.”

Damage from the coconut rhinoceros beetle.  HDOA photo.

Damage from the coconut rhinoceros beetle. HDOA photo.

Adult beetles are dark brown and grow up to 2½ inches long. In their larval form, they are white with a brown head.

Natural enemies of the beetle are pigs, ants, ants and some beetles. You are also susceptible to a fungus and virus, neither of which are found in Hawaii.

Suspicion of CRB on coconut and palm plants on all islands should be reported to the PEST HOTLINE of HDOA – 643-PEST (7378), which is free of charge for neighboring islands.

The beetle was first spotted in Hickam on December 23, the same day a population of small fire ants was discovered on Hapuu tree ferns that were shipped from the Big Island to a Maui garden store. The ants, which are one of the main pests on the Big Island, where they have established themselves, have also been found on Oahu and Kauai.

The little red ants live both on the ground and in trees and can cause painful stings in humans, corneal damage and blindness in cats and dogs.

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