The beetle was found dead in a bag of compost at a Maui big box store during routine survey work.

A dead coconut rhinoceros beetle has been found on Maui during a routine Department of Agriculture inspection.

The invasive insect’s remains were found in a bag of compost at a big-box store, leading to agricultural inspectors being dispatched across Maui and Big Island to inspect compost from the same company.

The beetles are a highly invasive species that has decimated palm tree populations and coconut crops across the Pacific. It was first discovered on Oahu in late 2013 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and was contained on island until late May this year, when it was detected on Kauai.

A coconut rhinoceros beetle trapped in a type of netting that University of Hawaii researchers have been using to help protect coconut palms around Hawaii. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

This is the first confirmed detection on Maui, though no live beetles have been found.

Pallets of unsold compost bags under the brand in which the scarab beetle was discovered have been quarantined and will be shipped back to Oahu by DOA inspectors, including 15 pallets from Maui.

The invasive insect has been reported to kill up to 50% of the trees in comes in contact with, causing concern in Hawaii’s agricultural sector, as coconut crops could be seriously affected.

The remains of the dead coconut rhinoceros beetle found on Maui in a bag of compost. (Courtesy: Hawaii Department of Agriculture)

Dead trees could present a hazard to the public, causing injury or property damage.

The beetles breed in green waste, which makes compost and mulch a prime means of transport between Hawaii’s islands.

The DOA is continuing to work alongside mulching and composting companies and retailers to prevent more spread, DOA deputy head Dexter Kishida said in a press release.

The department and University of Hawaii have both worked unsuccessfully to eradicate the beetle for years, installing thousands of traps statewide.

UH and DOA admitted defeat in early 2023, saying that funding was insufficient to deal with the problem.

In response, the Legislature ponied up approximately $2 million to help alleviate the problem.

Members of the public who have recently purchased locally-produced compost from a big-box retailer on Maui can return their purchases or take them to DOA’s Plant Quarantine Inspection office on Maui.

If the bags are not in a returnable state, the product should be double-bagged and sealed in heavy-duty trash bags, then left in a sunny spot on concrete for five days, according to a DOA press release.

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

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

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