In addition to the state’s interim rules, drones are being used to drop pesticides.

The Department of Agriculture is issuing a second emergency interim rule to address the persistent threat of coconut rhinoceros beetle to Hawaii.

The rule will reimpose restrictions for the movement of organic material from Oahu to other islands, after previous interim rules lapsed on June 30.

The temporary rules will act as a stopgap as the agency continues to work to make its interim rules permanent, a process that started at the beginning of this year but stalled due to pushback from within the agricultural sector, according to Dexter Kishida, the DOA’s deputy chair.

A large coconut rhinoceros beetle is held in a hand. The beetle's length is almost the size of the person's palm.
Coconut rhinoceros beetle is well known across the Pacific region, notorious for its ability to decimate palm trees. (Courtesy: DOA)

The Plant and Animals Advisory Committee, chaired by Plant Pest Control Branch acting manager Darcy Oishi, approved two requests on Monday. Each imposes rules that restrict the movement of palm plant species, compost and mulch which the beetle favors for feeding and breeding.

The interim rules also included the movement of erosion socks, which are often filled with green waste.

The rules impose restrictions on the shipment of those materials from infested areas. Oahu is the only island designated as infested, where the beetle has been isolated for a decade.

But a dead coconut rhinoceros beetle was detected on Maui in early September and CRB have also been found on Kauai, first spotted in late May.

The state Board of Agriculture approved permanent changes to the Hawaii Administrative Rules in February, but those still await transmission to the governor and a public input process.

The advisory committee members questioned why they were recreating an interim rule when the permanent rule could already be in place.

That was chalked up to changes in leadership within the department and agricultural industry concerns.

Dexter Kishida talks to Education reporter, Suevon Lee, about the Seamless Summer Option Program and their partnership with Makeke Farms.
DOA Deputy Director Dexter Kishida, who has worked for Honolulu and the Department of Education, has said a permanent rule should be in place within a few months. (Ku’u Kauanoe/Civil Beat/2019)

The department also needs to consult with the industry prior to taking the rule change to the public, Kishida says.

Most of those concerns were unrelated to CRB, which meant the interim rule could act as a stopgap.

“We just need this CRB rule ASAP,” Kishida said at the meeting, noting the rule change is probably going to take 2.5 months.

The reality is that the process has been protracted already and getting the rule through in a few months feels unlikely, according to Christy Martin, program manager at the Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species.

And the DOA needs to acknowledge that it is not going to make everyone in the sector happy in creating a new rule, Martin says.

“They don’t all speak with one voice,” Martin said.

Those who have worked with CRB for years have become frustrated by the process.

For Oishi, the committee chair, it has been a decade without support or funding to be able to properly address the issue.

He said in an interview that scientists have been talking about the coconut rhinoceros beetle for years, but that “most of the time we were talking in an echo chamber.”

Drone Targets And Dead Bugs

Since the beetle was first discovered on Kauai in May, 34 beetles and 26 larvae have been found.

Now, in a bid to eradicate CRB from the island, University of Hawaii researchers are deploying drone-based pesticide treatments on Kauai, with the aim to treat 20% of the island’s 580 coconut palms.

The drone treatment, using cypermethrin, will be part of a trial on a Wailua Municipal Golf Course and is intended to make sure that the main areas of concern on the palm trees are dealt with. Palm trees on the golf course reach up to 90 feet tall.

“The drones also provide a more targeted and efficient application of the pesticide rather than widespread spraying,” Board of Agriculture Chair Sharon Hurd said in a press release.

The pesticide treatment will influence the golf course’s hours, closing parts of the course.

  • ‘Hawaii Grown’ Special Series

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether the dead beetles found on Maui in early September indicated that any live insects had made it onto the island, Maui Invasive Species Committee acting manager Teya Penniman says.

The compost bag in which CRB were found on Maui indicated other beetles had escaped.

“They could tell that insects were coming out of the bag,” Penniman said. “But did it happen on Oahu or did it happen here?”

“Hawaii Grown” is funded in part by grants from Ulupono Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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