(BIVN) – A new rule will restrict the movement of palm plants and related material from areas in Hawaiʻi known to be infested with coconut rhinoceros beetle to non-infested areas in the state.
The island of O‘ahu is a CRB-infested area, the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture says. All other areas in the state, such as Hawaiʻi island, are currently considered to be non-infested areas.
Without the rule, state ag officials say Hawaiʻi island could be at risk for transport of the invasive beetles in shipments of compost and organic landscaping material from O‘ahu, amid efforts to restore the land and soil on the Big Island due to the recent wildfire damage.
From the Hawaiʻi Department of Agriculture:
The Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture (HDOA) today established a new interim rule to help stop the movement of the coconut rhinoceros beetle (CRB) from designated CRB-infested areas to non-infested areas in the state. On Monday afternoon, the Advisory Committee on Plants and Animals recommended approval of an interim rule that restricts the movement of palm plants; decomposing plant material, such as compost, wood or tree chips; mulch; potting soil; and other landscaping products that may harbor CRB, from infested areas to non-infested areas. In addition, the new interim rule restricts the movement of palm plants higher than four feet in height, which will enable closer inspection of palm crowns where CRB are most likely to bore into a tree. The new interim rule designates the island of O‘ahu as a CRB-infested area. All other areas in the state are currently considered to be non-infested areas.
The interim rule was signed today by HDOA Chairperson, Sharon Hurd, and is effective immediately. It is valid for one year, while HDOA finalizes a permanent rule. The interim rule approved today is based on a previous interim rule established in July 2022, but expands restrictions on the movement of potential CRB host plants and plant materials, and increases the penalties.
Any individual, company or organization that violates the rule will be charged with a misdemeanor and fined not less than $100 and up to $10,000. Penalties for a second offense committed within five years will require the violator to pay for the cost of clean-up and decontamination fees to remove contaminated materials, and the cost to fully eradicate any CRB infestations caused by the violation. Repeat violators will be fined not less than $500 and up to $25,000.
The new interim rule follows the first detection of CRB on Maui three weeks ago, when a dead adult CRB was found in a bag of compost shipped from O‘ahu at a Maui retailer. No other CRB has been detected on Maui. However, the efforts to restore the land and soil on Maui and Hawai‘i Island due to the wildfire damage have increased shipments of compost and organic landscaping material from O‘ahu, increasing the risk of the transport of CRB to non-infested areas.
“The new interim rule will help our agricultural inspectors prevent the movement of coconut rhinoceros beetle and strengthens penalties for those who violate the rules,” said Hurd. “Preventing pathways of movement, and early detection is key to stopping the spread of these invasive beetles.”
Surveillance for CRB has been ongoing on all neighbor islands, including pheromone traps at airports, harbors and other strategic locations. The traps are used for early detection of CRB infestations.
Green waste provides an optimal breeding environment for CRB and residents on all islands are urged to check their compost bins and green waste for CRB larvae and be aware of the visual signs of CRB feeding damage on live palms.
CRB were first detected in Hawai‘i in December 2013 on O‘ahu and have gradually spread from Central and West O‘ahu to the North Shore and the windward side. In late May, CRBs were found on Kaua‘i and eradication efforts are ongoing.
CRB are a serious pest of palm trees, primarily coconut palms, as the adult beetles bore into the crowns of the palms to feed on the tree’s sap. New unopened fronds are damaged in this way and when fully opened, may break and fall unexpectedly. If CRB kill or damage the growing point of the palm, the tree may die. Secondary fungal or bacterial pathogens may also attack the wounds caused by CRB, thereby killing the tree as well. Tree mortality after CRB attack has been reported to be anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent. Dead trees then become a safety hazard as they may fall unexpectedly after the trunk rots, potentially resulting in bodily injury or property damage.
CRB is a major pest of palms in India, the Philippines, Palau, Fiji, Wallis, Nukunono, American and Western Samoa and Guam. It is still not known exactly how the beetles arrived in Hawai‘i.
Reports of possible CRB infestation may be addressed to the CRB Response Team at (808) 679-5244 or email email@example.com or the state’s toll-free Pest Hotline at (808) 643-PEST (7378).