Archive for the ‘invasive species’ Category

Invasive Species Awareness Week

March 5th, 2014

The invasive coconut rhino beetle could destroy half of the state's coconut trees. Courtesy photo.

The invasive coconut rhino beetle could destroy half of the state's coconut trees. Courtesy photo.

Coqui frogs. Little fire ants. Coconut rhinoceros beetles.

You name it, we've got it here in Hawaii. We're talking about invasive species that can do great ecological and economic damage.

So on Monday, Gov. Neil Abercrombie kicked off the second annual Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week. It's an enormous problem for the state, high enough priority for Gov. Abercrombie, who has proposed up to $5 million to meet the operating costs of invasive species programs.

"We are experiencing a biological crisis involving a multitude of invaders ranging from the fire ant and coconut rhinoceros beetle, which can harm our animals and trees, to parasites attacking coffee crops," said Gov. Abercrombie in this year's State of the State address. "Each represents a deadly threat to our isolated ecosystem, natural resources, and economy, and I ask the public's engagement in addressing this menace."

Crowdsourcing seems to be the new trend in tracking invasive (as well as endangered) species these days. The state is asking people to participate in Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week by participating in efforts to survey all coconut trees  in the isles for the coconut rhinoceros beetle.

Adult rhino beetles bore into the crowns of coconut trees to drink the sap, leaving a distinctive v-shaped cut in the leaves when the fronds grow out. They could kill half the coconut trees in the state.

You can help by going to the Project Noah website or downloading the app. The Beetle Buster Team from the University of Hawaii will assess the presence or absence of the pest across the state.

There are also volunteer opportunities to combat invasive species across Hawaii:.

>> Help OISC remove invasive plants, Ardisia virens and Stromanthe tonckat at Lyon Arboretum 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 8. Email or call 286-4616. RSVP required.

>> Pull weeds on the offshore islet of Moku‘auia Wildlife Sanctuary on Saturday, March 8. RSVP required.

>> Remove invasive manuka plants from Manana Trail 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Contact RSVP required.


Saving Waikiki

February 12th, 2014


Volunteers are welcome to help remove three types of invasive algae from the reef behind Waikiki aquarium during public beach cleanups scheduled from February through October.

The Waikiki Aquarium recently received a $43,951 Community Restoration Partnership grant to continue its Waikiki Coastal Restoration efforts and research. The alien algae — Acanthophora spicifera, Gracilaria salicornia and Avrainvillea amadelpha — choke the reefs and crowd out native limu. They're considered a marine menace and threat to the beauty of Waikiki.

Beach cleanups will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, as well as on Saturdays, March 29, May 3, June 28 and Oct. 25.

"This grant allows us to further engage the public in our conservation efforts, which is a very important goal for us in 2014," said Aquarium director Andrew Rossiter. "We encourage everyone who has an interest in the ocean to join us for a rewarding Saturday morning out on the reef."

Volunteers will first  be trained on how to differentiate between invasive and native algae plants followed by hands-on removal experience on the reef using snorkels, paddleboards and buckets. Dr. Celia Smith and her team from the University of Hawaii Botany Department will provide the training. Starbucks and Diamond Bakery are providing coffee and snacks for volunteers.

Waikiki Aquarium's volunteers have removed thousands of pounds of invasive algae from the reef behind the aquarium over the decade in an effort to protect the native marine plants.

Other organizations, including Malama Maunalua, have also worked hard to remove invasive algae from Maunalua Bay (which stretches from Diamond Head to Koko Head) in East Oahu, with hopeful signs that the bay is being restored. Malama Maunalua also offers volunteer opportunities. On the windward side, a Super Sucker, a mobile underwater pump-vacuum, is used to remove invasive algae from Kaneohe Bay.

To voluteer for the Waikiki Coastal Restoration program, call the aquarium's volunteer office at 440-9020 or visit

Stinging ants!

February 1st, 2014

The Little Fire Ant is an invasive stinging ant that was discovered Dec.  2013 on a hapuu (Hawaiian tree fern) at a nursery on Maui. The stinging ants have been found on plants sold at both Oahu and Maui garden shops. Courtesy photo.

The Little Fire Ant is an invasive stinging ant that was discovered Dec. 2013 on hapuu (Hawaiian tree fern) at Oahu and Maui garden shops. The state Department of Agriculture is urging the public to report any signs of the Little Fire Ants in their yards. Courtesy photo.

Oahu residents, watch out! The Oahu Invasive Species Committee and the Hawaii Department of Agriculture is asking the public to help keep an eye out for the Little Fire Ant.

This tiny, orange ant is highly invasive and poses a threat to Oahu's economy, environment and quality of life, according to OISC. In case you haven't heard, they were first detected on Oahu in December 2013 on hapuu logs delivered from the Big Island.

Not to be confused with the tropical fire ant, these ants are smaller, measuring about 1/16th thick (about the width of a penny).  Originally from South America, Little Fire Ants like moist, shaded environments and tend to congregate in trees. With a little wind, the ants tend to "rain" down and deliver painful, lingering stings that leave welts. The ants were first detected in Puna in 1999. They pose a threat to Hawaii's agricultural workers as well as to ground, nesting birds and sea turtle hatchlings. They can also be a threat to pets – they have been known to sting pets in their eyes, leading to blindness, according to OISC.

Here is the New Pest Advisory from the agriculture department.

Reporting any sightings of the Little Fire Ants is critical to preventing the establishment of colonies here. Our columnist, Heidi Bornhorst, urges everyone to work together to eradicate the little fire ants. She offers some treatment tips, as well.

You can test for Little Fire Ants by smearing a thin coat of peanut butter on a chopstick, and place it near new soils, plants, mulch or other landscaping materials in your yard. After 45 minutes, if you find suspected Little Fire Ants on your chopstick, place them in a ziplock bag and freeze for 24 hours to kill them, and call the state Department of Agriculture at 643-PEST.

A documentary film on Little Fire Ants by the Maui Invasive Species Committee premiered in Honolulu on Jan. 13.

Invasive Species Info on the Web

May 23rd, 2013

The Brown Tree Snake is an invasive species in the state of Hawaii. In Guam, the snake is believed to have been accidentally introduced hidden in cargo and has decimated bird populations there. Photo from

The Brown Tree Snake is an invasive species in the state of Hawaii. In Guam, the snake is believed to have been accidentally introduced hidden in cargo and has decimated bird populations there. Photo from

What do the Africanized Honey Bee, Brown Tree Snake, Cattails, Coqui Frogs and Wood Rose have in common? They are all considered high-profile invasive species in Hawaii.

If you spot one of them, you should report it right away to the Pest Hotline at 808-643-PEST. You can also report a pest online and find all the information you need at Hawaii's new one-stop shop website at


Coqui frogs have invaded the Big Island. From

The Hawaii Invasive Species Council and University of Hawaii launched the new website, which also details funded projects, reports to the state legislature and Hawaii's coqui frog management plan.

Invasive species are a big problem in Hawaii due to the state's geographic isolation. Hawaii's native plant and animal species (those that arrived here naturally via wind, waves and birds) have little defense against competitive species.

The results can be really destructive to Hawaii's natural ecosystem. Miconia, an invasive plant from South America, for example, overtakes forests and prevents the growth of other plants, causing erosion. The Brown Tree Snake decimated bird populations on Guam. If you've been on the Big Island at dusk, you've probably heard the chorus of Coqui frogs, which chirrup annoyingly from dusk to dawn, but also disrupt the balance of vulnerable native ecosystems.

While the Brown Tree Snake is not known to be present in Hawaii at this time, eight were discovered in the state between 1981 and 1998, mostly likely carried here in civilian and military vehicles or cargo from Guam.

The Wood Rose, with its yellow flowers, can be seen in many Hawaii yards, but the woody, climbing vine is considered invasive and chokes and smothers plants.

Click here to see a quick list of invasives in Hawaii.

Invasive Species Awareness Week

March 1st, 2013

Quiz: Strawberry guava — invasive or non-invasive?

Strawberry guava is an invasive species in Hawaii. Learn more during Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week March 4 to 10. Photo from

Strawberry guava is an invasive species in Hawaii. Learn more during Hawaii Invasive Species Awareness Week March 4 to 10. Photo from

Answer: Invasive.

Though we see plenty of strawberry guava during our hikes on Oahu as well as in people's yards, strawberry guava, which was introduced to Hawaii from Brazil in 1825, is an invasive species that invades native forests. With no natural enemies or competitors in the isles, strawberry guava forms dense thickets replacing native Hawaiian plants and damages the watershed.

What are invasive species?

Invasive species are 1) Harmful to the environment, economy and/or human health and 2) Not native to the area in which it is presenting a problem.

The first Hawai‘i Invasive Species Awareness Week takes place from Monday (March 4) to March 10.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie kicks off the week with a proclamation at 10 a.m. Monday at the state Capitol, followed by an awards ceremony to honor individuals and groups that have made a difference in protecting Hawaii from invasive species.

See the full list of honorees at

During the week, join Hawaii Bioblitz's mission to find out what's living in your backyard. The public is invited to submit photos of plants and animals in Hawaii and to post them to the project website. More than 30 local experts are volunteering to help the public identify the plants and animals in their photos, and determine whether they are native, non-native or invasive species. Go to for more information.

Want to do more to combat invasive species?

There are volunteer opportunities across the state, which include managing invasive plants on Mauna Kea (Saturday, March 2) or helping with the Manoa Cliff forest restoration (Sunday, March 3). You can also help remove invasive species at Lyon Arboretum  or pull invasive algae from Oahu's fishponds on Saturday (March 9). You can also pull weeds in the Alakai bog on Kauai.

Click here for a list of invasive species awareness week events.

Yoga, then Huki (invasive algae clearing)

January 18th, 2013

Malama Maunalua has been clearing Maunalua Bay of invasive algae, along with other projects. PHoto of Maunalua Bay from

Malama Maunalua has been clearing Maunalua Bay of invasive algae, along with other environmental projects. Help "Huki" tomorrow morning (Saturday) at Paiko Dr. Photo of Maunalua Bay from

If you're looking for something to do tomorrow (Saturday) morning, then why not yoga and some invasive algae clearing on a beautiful coastline?

Malama Maunalua invites the public to bring family and friends to its Paiko Drive "Huki" from 8 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Jan. 19).

First, to get focused, enjoy power yoga from 8 to 9:15 a.m. with Lehua Kai at Kuliouou Beach Park, then head over to Paiko Drive at 9:30 a.m. for the Huki, which means to "pull" or "remove" invasive algae from Maunalua Bay.

Invasive algae has invaded roughly 200 acres at Maunalua Bay, suffocating native coral and killing the reef. Malama Maunalua, a non-proift, has been working on removing the algae and monitoring the bay on a regular basis for the past few years.

Parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged. Participants should also bring a reusable water bottle, dress in clothes that can get wet and dirty. Call Malama Maunalua at 395-5050 if you have questions.

Did you hear a "ko-KEE"? Listen Sept. 12

September 10th, 2012

The coqui frog is just about the size of a quarter, but reproduces quickly and makes a loud "ko-KEE" noise from dusk to dawn. Star-Advertiser archives photo.

The coqui tree frog, originally from Puerto Rico, is just about the size of a quarter, but reproduces quickly and makes a loud "ko-KEE" noise from dusk to dawn. OISC invites Oahu residents to go out and listen for the invasive coqui frogs as part of a new monitoring program via a new app on Wednesday. Star-Advertiser archives photo.

If you've ever been to Hawaii island, then you've no doubt heard the unmistakable "ko-KEE, ko-KEE, ko-KEE!" as dusk settled in.

Soon the lone call of the coqui frog, a Puerto Rican tree frog and invasive species in Hawaii, is joined by several other voices to create a cacophony to — shall we say — serenade you throughout the night.

While lone coqui frogs have been discovered on the island of Oahu from time to time, they have not yet established a population here.

The Oahu Invasive Species Committee hopes to keep it that way, and so this Wednesday (Sept. 12) has been established as "Go Out and Listen Night." OISC invites all Oahu residents to help listen for the invasive coqui frogs for a period of 15 minutes from 7:30 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Report whether you did or did not hear a coqui frog in your area via the city's new "Honolulu 311" app.

For details on how to participate, or to hear what a coqui frog sounds like (if you've never been so lucky), or step-by-step instructions on how to use the app, visit

Coqui frogs, native to Puerto Rico, typically hitchhike to the island through potted plants or other items shipped from Hawaii island. They are light-brown to dark-colored frogs with variable patterns and reach up to two inches as adults. The "ko-KEE" is the male coqui's mating call, which sounds like a two-note, bird chirp (click hear to listen to a sample online). To learn more, visit the Hawaii Department of Agriculture website.

Since the beginning of this year, 20 coqui frogs have been captured on Oahu.

"Coqui frogs threaten to deprive residents of a good night's sleep with their earsplitting 'ko-KEE' calls that last from dusk until dawn, lower the value of properties, discourage tourism and alter the island's natural ecosystems by consuming beneficial insects that play an important role in nutrient cycling processes," says OISC in a press release.

If you don't have a smartphone, you can still report coqui frogs by emailing OISC at or calling the state pest hotline, 643-PEST.