HONOLULU (KHON2) — Coconut Rhinoceros Beetles have the potential to bring Hawaiʻi’s agriculture commerce to its knees.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, CRBs were first detected in Hawaiʻi in December 2013. Coming from Southeast Asia, it attacks coconut palms by boring into the crowns or tops of the tree. This single action damages the growing tissue of the tree where the RCB then feeds on the tree’s sap.

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The damage done by the RCB can significantly reduce coconut production and kill the tree. The beetle is also known to feed on economically important commercial crops such as bananas, sugarcane, papayas, sisal, pineapples, taro and date palms.

Hawaiʻi has now identified an infestation in Wahiawā. The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture has established a new interim rule to help stop the movement of the CRB from designated CRB-infested areas to non-infested areas in the state. 

The HDOA and Department of Land and Natural Resources said they inspected and installed traps which will begin the containment strategy of CRB in Wahiawā.

“The CRB was detected on Royal Palm Drive, which is home to historic palms beloved by the community and recognized in the City and County of Honolulu’s Exceptional Tree Program,” said Hawaiʻi State Senator Donovan M. Dela Cruz.

Officials are recommending green waste inspection and management as the most effective ways to stave off CRB outbreaks. Green waste management includes removal of compost, soil, dead trees and plant waste from homes, businesses and public common areas that have potential breeding material for the invasive beetle. 

“The initial response from the HDOA Director lacked the urgency that I felt was necessary to save the historic palms,” said Sen. Dela Cruz. “I want to say Mahalo to HDOA Deputy Director Dexter Kishida and DLNR Deputy Director Laura Kaakua for their immediate attention on this matter and assisting with the eradication outreach today.”

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If you find beetles or larvae, then you will need to place them into a sealed container or plastic bag and store them in a freezer. It is important to remember that you will need to wear protective materials when handling CRB such as gardening gloves, cloth or paper towels.

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Adult CRB are active during late afternoon and evening hours. Residents who observe CRB are asked to immediately file a report with the CRB Response Team at (808) 679-5244 or email info@crbhawaii.org or call the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at (808) 643-PEST (7378). Reports should include your name, location and time the CRB was observed.