(BIVN) – The invasive Queensland Longhorn Beetle – currently attacking cacao, citrus, ulu, and kukui on the east side of the Big Island – was the subject of a public meeting held in Hilo on Monday evening.
Interested – and concerned – residents packed the Aupuni Center conference room, to hear presentations on the pest that is believed to have been accidentally introduced through imported commodities from the Queensland region of Australia. The beetle, Acalolepta aesthetica, is a wood-borer and is related to the Asian longhorn beetle which devastated forests in North America in the 1990’s.
So far, the beetle has only been found in Hilo and Puna.
According to Stacey Chun, who works for the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture, the first beetle specimen on the Big Island was found in July 2009 at a Keaau/Orchidland residence. No other specimens were submitted until May 2013, almost 4 years later. Every year the numbers of beetles steadily increase. A New Pest Advisory was published, and according to Hawaiʻi ag officials:
A. aesthetica is not considered a pest in its native range (Australia) and information on the biology, behavior, and management of this species remains unknown in literature. It continues to exhibit invasive potential as time progresses.
Kevin Michael Hoffman, the administrator for the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture Plant Industry Division, addressed the crowd, saying that “we’re continuing to allow Stacey [Chun] to do research on the distribution and biology of [the beetle]. We have reached out to USDA and requested a review by their new pest advisory group so they can give us some guidance on how to go forward with responding to this beetle. If we get a new pest advisory group report it also lends a little more support for getting federal funds, as well to to respond to the beetle. We have reached out to CSIRO, which is a Australian version of the Department of Agriculture, and looking at collaborating with them on bio-control efforts.”
“This beetle is not well known in Australia,” Hoffman said, where the insect is “not much of a pest. So there’s not a lot of information that we have on potential biocontrol agents.”
“The Department continues to enforce the existing regulations that we have on inter-island movement of inter-island movement of plant material and so we don’t we don’t have a quarantine specific for this beetle,” Hoffman said. “We do continue to inspect plant material that’s moving between islands and we have not found the beetle moving in those pathways, yet. So, right now, it’s still confined to Hawaii Island.”