29 Jan 2015

Eradicating beetle pest essential to Hawaii agriculture, culture

9:39 am on 29 January 2015

A team in Hawaii working on eradicating a beetle that threatens to destroy palm trees and other crops says it could be up to 10 years before being anywhere near eradicating the pest.

The adult coconut rhinoceros beetle bores into palm trees to feed on the sap, weakening the tree, and eventually killing it.

The incident commander for the Hawaii coconut rhinoceros beetle eradication programme, Rob Curtiss, says it's been 13 months since the beetle was first discovered on Oahu.

Mr Curtiss says they've limited the infestation to Oahu, and it's essential to agricultural and cultural interests they eradicate the beetle.

"It's called the coconut rhinoceros beetle, but it actually will damage and kill a lot of other palms, and they'll also damage a lot of crop plants, like papaya, banana, pineapple, taro. A lot of the crop plants that are associated with Hawaii, and the rest of Polynesia could be affected by this beetle.

Rob Curtiss says coconut palms in particular are culturally very important to Hawaii, and there's a risk the beetles could decimate ancient coconut plantings if the beetle population gets out of control.